It is no surprise that JaguarLandRover’s (JLR) plans for advanced research and development in the UK that will focus on new cutting-edge technology, innovation and education will rely heavily on the Warwick Manufacturing group of which Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya is chairman.
Professor Bhattacharyya has close links with Tata Motors and JLR. This deal is a triumph for him and demonsstrates the power of perseverence.
The new National Automotive Innovation Campus (NAIC), designed to create a large-scale collaborative research environment, will bring academics from the UK's leading universities together with researchers and engineers from JLR and its supply chain, in a single, multi-purpose, state-of-the-art research facility.
JLR is the lead partner in the project investing £50m, along with Tata Motors European Technical Centre (TMETC), WMG and the UK Government's Higher Education Funding Council England (HEFCE).
Construction of the nearly £100m NAIC is scheduled to begin in September 2014 at the University of Warwick. Around 1,000 academics, researchers, technologists and engineers will work in the building, which will feature engineering workshops and laboratories, advanced powertrain facilities and the latest advanced design, visualisation and rapid prototyping technologies.
The development of the new facility, which will complement JaguarLandRover's product creation centres in Gaydon and Whitley, will be co-ordinated by Dr Wolfgang Epple, JLR's director of research and technology. In this new board-level role, Dr Epple is leading JLR's innovation and advanced research initiatives and has been appointed an Honorary Fellow at WMG.
Dr. Epple said: "Investing in collaboration, innovation, research and education is vital if we want to be on a par with our international competitors. Our future sales success, the success of our global business - and the UK economy - lies in the engineering and innovation that will take place in NAIC.
"Creating a new national focus for automotive research and consolidating JLR's growing research and advanced engineering operations in one centre offers us huge potential. With a critical mass of research capability we will put the UK at the very centre of the global automotive industry - with the NAIC at its hub."
The development of the NAIC project is the next stage in JLR's long-term research strategy and builds on the success Jaguar Land Rover has enjoyed as part of its long-standing relationship with WMG at the University of Warwick. Nearly 200 JLR researchers and engineers are based at WMG, collaborating with university experts on a number of projects.
JLR expects it will more than double the size of its advanced research team to 500 people by the time the NAIC opens in 2016.
Antony Harper, JLR's head of research, said: "We will announce the details of the specific research projects on which our NAIC research team will collaborate in due course, but these will be long-term, multi-disciplinary challenges - such as electrification, smart & connected cars and Human Machine Interface - which will help us create some key new technologies that will deliver a low-carbon future.
"These collaborative research programmes will harness the best of UK engineering innovation, and with the extra capability the NAIC gives us, you can expect the number and range of new, fresh innovative ideas that we patent, and then take to production in the future, will increase significantly."
As well as the skills and knowledge that will be developed within these research projects, NAIC will have a key role in developing the skills of school children and engineering students, who will be able to use NAIC's laboratories and a dedicated engineering education facility.
Dr. Wolfgang Epple added: "Economic growth can only be sustained if we and our suppliers can find the right quality and quantity of skilled people. We need to ensure that we are inspiring people to consider engineering and encourage a passion for science, technology and maths from a young age.
"The NAIC will become a centre of training and skills to help ensure we have enough young people wanting to develop a career in engineering and manufacturing. NAIC will also play a key role in nurturing the next generation of engineers and technologists." ∎
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