Expert comment from Margot James, Executive Chair at WMG, in response to the Government’s Net Zero Strategy.
"The decarbonisation of personal transport, by moving to Electric Vehicles (EVs), will be a major contributor to delivering on this target as EVs become a viable option for the majority of consumers. Viability depends upon EVs being affordable and drivers having access to a reliable network of fast charging in urban and rural networks"
Find out more about the new National Skills Framework that has been created by WMG, The Faraday Institution and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult: New National Electrification Skills Framework and Forum could put the UK at the forefront of the green revolution News
“We welcome the Government’s Net Zero strategy and the commitment to reform the skills system to allow providers to be more responsive to industry need, which is what we have called for in the recently launched National Electrification Skills Framework. Our focus is to re-skill, up-skill and new-skill working with the automotive sector to ensure their workforce has the necessary skills to be able to meet the 2035 and 2050 targets set by government.”
Find out more about the new skills framework that has been created by WMG, The Faraday Institution and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult here: New National Electrification Skills Framework and Forum could put the UK at the forefront of the green revolution - WMG :: News (warwick.ac.uk)
WMG commends the advances to UK innovation, skills and industrial growth made by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and supports NAO recommendations to further improve impact
- Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund has brought government, business and researchers together at scale and at pace, supporting over 1,600 innovation projects, including Coventry’s UK Battery Industrialisation Centre
- NAO right to support streamlining start-up and approvals processes of up to 72 weeks, which can deter bids, especially among smaller businesses
- Longer term visibility of funding will be needed to give investment confidence to businesses and academia
- Mechanisms to engage private sector finance should be considered – especially as innovations become ready for market
- As industry faces challenges of the pandemic, flexibility in financing bids, especially to support smaller businesses, should be considered
- Regional and Skills strategies should be a key part of innovation funding approach
- The Catapult network provides an established and successful platform for innovation, and its geographic locations also suggest it could play a big role in regional levelling-up
- Skills must be developed alongside innovation to give the UK the ability to exploit our ISFC investments. WMG, at the University of Warwick, have been pioneers in developing skills programmes alongside innovation and industrialisation
WMG at the University of Warwick has welcomed today’s National Audit Office report on the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, supporting their positive assessment of the fund, and backed their calls for a more streamlined approach to innovation funding, alongside a greater emphasis on the importance of innovation for regional development and skills growth.
Professor Dave Greenwood, Director of Industrial Engagement at WMG, University of Warwick and Chief Executive of the WMG High Value Manufacturing Catapult said:
“The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) has been a powerful tool to support innovation that meets the most pressing national challenges.
“The ISCF has bought government, business and researchers together at scale, and at pace, to help our transport industry decarbonise through the Faraday Battery Challenge, and is delivering vital vaccine capacity through the Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre. It has supported over 1,600 projects, including the new UK Battery Industrialisation Centre in Coventry, with over forty per cent of support in the first two waves going to small and Micro companies.
“These projects are making a difference to UK innovation, skills and industrial growth, and these successes should be celebrated.
“As the report says, however, there are always opportunities to improve how the Fund operates.
“First, we need to make the funding process faster and more agile – especially given rapid changes in the external Business and social environment, from Brexit to the Pandemic. Lengthy Approvals processes of up to 72 weeks for selecting challenges and awarding projects can deter bids, especially among smaller businesses.
“Alongside this, with much of industry dealing with financial pressures from the pandemic, government should consider relaxing some of the funding constraints on the programmes – especially where they fall significantly short of what state aid would allow, such as in the co-investment requirement from Industry, which was increased in Wave 3 of the Fund.
“Together, these steps would help position the UK for clean growth post-COVID and deliver on opportunities created for the UK supply chain by the UK/EU trade agreement.
“Looking forward, it’s essential that there is a long-term funding package in place to support the Industrial Strategy Challenges. As the report notes “The Fund was part of a one-year settlement in the spending review in November 2020.” Short term spending decisions will ultimately be detrimental to large scale industrial and academic investments – a 5 year rolling funding horizon is needed for full confidence from Industry partners. To help deliver this, we should consider the role of private finance in these programmes, and what mechanisms might de-risk industry investments to support clean growth.
“It’s also crucial that the ISCF supports regional development as part of the Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda. Currently, almost half of funding has gone to projects in London and the South East, and while we in the West Midlands have secured significant investment, the ISCF should reflect the regional profile of Industrial R&D more closely. It is notable that government funding relative to private sector investment is much lower in the Midlands than in the South East for instance.
The Catapult network, with centres of excellence across the country, strong links to regional industries, and good networking between them, is an exemplar of how levelling up should be delivered. This established and successful platform could provide an efficient and effective means to boost R&D in under-represented regions in accordance with the recommendations of this report.
“We also need to link innovation spending to the education and skills agenda. The UK needs not just the best technologies but also the people to develop, manufacture and support them. These cannot be developed in isolation. Here, WMGs approach of delivering innovation and skills programmes together and in partnership with industry is an established model, allowing degree apprenticeships, re-training, lifelong learning to support industry innovation programmes. As the Government considers responses to the skills white paper, it should consider how future industry skills needs will be shaped by the innovations being delivered by the challenge fund, from transport electrification to digital skills.
Professor Lord Bhattacharyya, Chairman, WMG, University of Warwick comments “I’m delighted to hear that the Government have announced plans to establish a centre for battery research in the UK. Not only will this support the Industrial Strategy, it will help change the perception of Britain from labs to manufacture.”
“Coventry and the sub region has a significant contribution to make in the delivery of the UK’s national industrial strategy, being in a strong position to lead the advancement of battery development, and vehicle electrification and autonomous vehicles. It will be at the heart of the drive to make the city a smart motor city.”
“Building on our automotive heritage, together with the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP, we are keen to develop and expand battery R&D, which will see the creation of these skilled jobs which will also be a trigger for other development by the private sector.
“Having a 37 year track record of working jointly with industry to innovate, and as leaders, for 15 years, in battery development, WMG are poised to continue to drive forward battery innovation and help create growth and employment in the UK.
The full announcement from the Business Secretary Greg Clarke MP can be heard here.
“As recent news headlines have highlighted, the demand for health and social care services is growing at an unprecedented rate. Demographic changes, presence of long-term conditions, technological advancements, and patient expectations are just some of the factors driving this growth.
“Addressing the increased demand for service through an efficient integrated care delivery structure, that puts the patient at the centre of the service system, is an idea that has wide support. Developing that integrated framework of care will require thoughtful and systematic approaches however, including new ways of training the healthcare workforce, particularly those who are in middle management and tasked with the essential role of overseeing healthcare operational management.
“The increased demand is reshaping the service environment, making it dynamic and subject to rapid change. To address some of the challenges that come with such changes, it will be essential to provide health sector managers with the skills and knowledge to effectively operationalize issues of quality, productivity, and cost so as to ensure that the health service system delivers dual advantages of patient benefits while remaining efficient.
Expert Comment: Prof Carsten Maple - One billion affected by Yahoo hack
"Breaches continue to take place without companies identifying the breach, or at least the full impact of the breach. The time taken between the breach occurring and notification to those whose details are breached can leave to risk of compromise of other accounts.
"We have an issue about how we authenticate ourselves to systems currently - mostly relying solely on passwords or personal information (when a password is forgotten)."
Carsten Maple, Professor of Cyber Systems Engineering at WMG's Cyber Security Centre (CSC)
“We have learned of another high profile breach this morning – this time, Tesco Bank. As yet we know little of how the breach occurred, but what we do know is that a number of accounts were subjected to "online criminal activity" over the weekend, with "some cases" resulting in money being withdrawn fraudulently. Of course Tesco has stated it will refund money to those affected, but failed to answer two key questions: How did the breach occur and what about the impact and associated costs for those affected?
“For the first question, it may not be necessary to provide this answer today, but it will be important. Were card machines breached? Was there a human error either within Tesco or one of its partners? These questions will be important as they will determine the follow-up actions needed by Tesco and it customers.
Today’s publication of a new report by the Groceries Code Adjudicator has found that Tesco ‘seriously breached’ a legally-binding code to protect grocery producers. Tesco opted to prioritise their own finances over the equitable treatment of their suppliers.
Tesco’s over-focus on operating margin is the potential root cause of many of the issues highlighted in the report. It demonstrates the danger of pursuing a financial metric in isolation. With UK boards (both Executive and Non-executive) dominated by leaders with financial and commercial backgrounds, it is not surprising that FTSE listed companies are biased towards financial measures and fail to understand the longer term impact on the broader supply chain. Of greater concern is the impact that such commercially biased leadership has on the culture of the whole organisation, and the broader industry. Suppliers in the broader retail sector express concern that the ‘Tesco-buyer’ phenomena is becoming increasingly prevalent and potentially undermining the supply chain.
Apprentices are secret weapon in fight for productivity argues Professor Lord Bhattacharyya
Commenting in the Sunday Times (13 September), Professor Lord Bhattacharyya, Chairman of WMG, University of Warwick, says the neglect of technical education over the past decades means we lag our biggest competitors and success depends on understanding business needs.
He says "A highly skilled workforce is the key to creating virtuous circle where productivity improvement spurs increased investment which in turn drives productivity growth. The neglect of technical education over past decades means we lag our major competitors.
Unless skills training is given and funded by industry, it will be poorly targeted. We (WMG) succeed because we focus on understanding business needs, offering research and education that is both academically excellent and industrially relevant.
It is this vital role of the private sector in technical sector in technical education, which demonstrates the need for statutory apprenticeship levy, so that skill providers respond to business needs, not just government grants.
Dr Stuart Coles is an Assistant Professor in Sustainable Materials and Manufacturing His main research interests are based around sustainability and the substitution of natural materials into industrial products.
Commenting on the Automobile Association (AA) joining green groups in warning that changes in energy policy will harm the climate he said:
“Incentives are needed on low-emission vehicles to keep them attractive to consumers whilst technology catches up and battery-powered cars are able to compete in terms of function with conventional vehicles."
“In his Budget, Chancellor George Osborne announced that the nil vehicle excise duty (VED) band for clean petrol cars would be restricted in future to electric vehicles. This removes a tax break for clean petrol cars and hybrids, which will from 2017, attract the same VED as gas guzzlers."
“The Government’s policy on VED is damaging to the environment as effective low carbon options, such as plug-in hybrids, will now fall into the same tax band as many other higher emission vehicles. Whilst clean electric vehicles are available, they are not currently able to travel much farther than 100-120 miles (the maximum for the Nissan Leaf is 124 miles with perfect conditions) and are therefore not a viable option on many journeys.”