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Chancellor sees flagship R&D programme in action

PR 01/08
31 January 2008

The Chancellor of the Exchequer visited international research and education group WMG today to see one of the UK’s foremost examples of universities and industry working together.

Alistair Darling MP saw how the £72 million Premium Automotive Research and Development programme (PARD), run by WMG at the University of Warwick, has resulted in increased productivity, innovation and competitiveness in the West Midlands automotive supply chain.

PARD is a flagship of Advantage West Midlands, the regional development agency, which provided £38m of funding for the programme.

Chairman Nick Paul said: “We see the PARD programme as one of the shining success stories in our region, building on world-class companies, world-class universities and world-class facilities.

“The impact of the scheme has more than justified the extent of the investment we made in PARD.

“Making a difference in the high-value manufacturing and research and development areas are two major priorities for the agency, the PARD programme has played a significant role in strengthening these areas for the West Midlands region.”

Over 500 suppliers worked with WMG and its partner Jaguar & Land Rover to discover the strengths they needed in order to win contracts with big multinationals. The 10 project teams were then able to equip those companies with the skills, services, processes and products they need in order to compete at the very top, now and in the future.

Participants in the programme, which range from large manufacturers to very small, specialised component companies, have been able to broaden their range of skills to work in other sectors including marine, transport and aerospace.

Mr Darling, who toured WMG’s facilities and saw demonstrations of some of the technology created by PARD, said: “What WMG is doing with PARD is extremely impressive, in particular the fact that you are bringing together industry, universities and the public sector to make sure we’ve got the expertise and skills to help us produce first class cars and other products into the future.

“This work will truly make a difference to the UK economy: we know we have to compete on quality and excellence and that’s precisely what you’re doing here.”

The Chancellor then visited Stadco in Birmingham, one of the partner companies in the programme, which is investing in new technology as a result.

Manufacturing Engineering Director Paul Meeson explained: “Being part of PARD gave us the opportunity to work collaboratively with other suppliers and with our customers. It has given new energy and momentum to the business and encouraged us to find opportunities to invest in research and development in a collaborative way.

“The investment we’ve made has affected the bottom line in terms of productivity and efficiency savings and PARD as a whole has enabled us to get closer to our customers and be better prepared for their future needs.”

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Chancellor Alistair Darling tries out the new Jaguar XF