Driving the future of mobility: How WMG partnered with industry to build a new home of automotive innovation
Academics and engineers at Warwick are working with Jaguar Land Rover and Tata Motors to develop the cars of tomorrow today.
It’s difficult to understate the importance of the automotive industry to Warwickshire – and, for that matter, the impact of the county on the industry.
There’s a proud history that dates back as far as 1896, when entrepreneur Harry Lawson opened a factory in Coventry for the Daimler Motor Company Limited.
In fact, the Grafton Phaeton that was made a year later is still displayed in the nearby British Motor Museum, complete with its four candle-powered lamps.
And of course the city is also well known for its role in manufacturing London’s iconic black cabs.
These traditions are being continued in earnest today, not least thanks to an exciting new partnership between Jaguar Land Rover, Tata Motors and WMG, the academic department at the University of Warwick that partners with the private and public sectors to drive forward science, technology and engineering.
Together, this group is combining to use the purpose-built National Automotive Innovation Centre (NAIC) located on Warwick’s campus.
It was opened in 2020 by then HRH Prince of Wales, now King Charles III, and promises to play a huge role in beckoning in the next generation of vehicles and transport solutions.
Joint efforts, combined clout
First, let’s look at the courses in question, both of which will accept new applications from January 2023.
Just as Warwickshire’s automotive heritage owes itself to the combined efforts of bright minds, plucky engineers and committed businesspeople, so too is the new hub home to plenty of promising collaboration.
At 33,000m², the facility is big enough to house hundreds of academics, designers, researchers and engineers in cutting-edge workshops, laboratories, virtual engineering suites and advanced powertrain facilities.
It’s the brainchild of the late Professor Lord Bhattacharyya, the man who the Centre’s building is named after – and whose passion for bringing the worlds of academia and industry together led him to found WMG and continues to inspire those who work in the new facility.
And their work? It’s focused on solving some of the biggest challenges facing our planet.
“Here, academics, manufacturers and suppliers will develop a smart, safe transport infrastructure that integrates autonomous vehicles and public transport; design zero-emission vehicles powered by smart-chargers and renewable energy; and discover material and digital manufacturing innovations that will eliminate waste,” Professor Sir Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover, said.
These bold aims are taking shape through a range of education programmes, apprenticeships and lifelong learning schemes, with all three partners developing curricula that support emerging technologies.
“We have benefited from the dedication of many individuals and organisations from across industry and academia, as well as local and national government,” Professor Stuart Croft, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Warwick, said.
“They have come together to help bring the vision of the late Professor Lord Bhattacharyya to fruition to create a centre dedicated to the development and research of the future of mobility.”
Sustainability is at the heart of the NAIC’s purpose.
Jaguar Land Rover, Tata Motors and WMG are developing electrified and autonomous vehicles; prototypes such as Warwick’s Formula Student car, the Warwick Moto electric superbike, the autonomous Tata Hexa and the self-driving Jaguar I-PACE were all exhibited at the £150m Centre’s official opening.
Its design and construction, too, were shaped by sustainability and wellbeing, with the building including a rooftop photovoltaic array, regenerative electrical heating and even one of the world’s largest glulam timber roofs.
“The National Automotive Innovation Centre will create breakthrough technologies,” David Sweeney from Research England, which funded the NAIC with £15m from the government’s Research Partnership Investment Fund, said.
“This model of interdisciplinary working exemplifies how our innovative higher education sector works with industry to foster collaborative and highly effective relationships in regional centres of research excellence such as the West Midlands.”
A landmark for progress
While the NAIC may be the result of Warwickshire’s automotive legacy – Jaguar Cars having bought the Daimler in 1960 – the future is very much its focus.
And although it remains to be seen what products the Centre may help realise, it seems certain that some of the innovations born in Warwick will go on to change the face of motoring in the future.
The collaborative partnership also means locals can stay proud of their area’s automotive connections, with no end in sight for Warwickshire’s influence on how we all get from A to B.