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Bringing Together Research and Industry

The way ahead is bringing research and industry together.

Margot James, Executive Chair, WMG, Warwick

Students of history will tell you that Britain was once the workshop of the world. However, as new economic superpowers emerged, by the turn of the twentieth century she started to fall behind new leaders in global manufacturing.

Following World War II, as Britain sought a new geopolitical role, mass production and automation took off in both Japan and the United States. The rebuilding of Germany created another engineering and manufacturing superpower. By contrast Britain failed to invest and innovate. Our manufacturing sector became uncompetitive, and we fell behind.

WMG (formerly Warwick Manufacturing Group) was founded in 1980 to arrest the decline and make Britain a global leader in manufacturing once again. WMG was created by the late Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya – Britain’s first ever Professor of Manufacturing.

As an international leader, WMG’s mission is to facilitate collaboration between the brightest talents in academia and industry, to create partnerships that drive innovation and solve problems across manufacturing, science, technology, and engineering.

Located in the heart of the Midlands – a region steeped in industrial heritage and manufacturing tradition – we are well placed to work with strategic partners across the UK and globally.

Whilst the problems we solve may have evolved over time, the core mission of WMG remains the same. Throughout my twelve years’ experience, working with WMG, the transfer of focus – and indeed knowledge – has grown to support a huge range of sectors. Whilst we are still very much involved with a wide range of manufacturing companies, the work we do delivers impact from automotive to forensics and healthcare.

By working directly with industry, to solve the challenges of today, we can better co-create solutions which in turn can be implemented rapidly and have an immediate and greater impact.

We work with some of the UK’s biggest companies – from Jaguar Land Rover to JCB – to undertake joint research into battery technology and autonomous vehicles and help implement solutions. We also work with smaller firms, those without huge research and development budgets, to improve their processes and products giving them access to the latest innovation.

For example, we worked closely with Pashley Cycles – a Stratford-upon-Avon based company – to help them innovate a lightweight but robust bicycle which has enabled them to win the tender to supply the London bike hire scheme, supplying bikes previously manufactured in North America. Onshoring investment and creating local jobs here in the West Midlands is a priority for WMG, as well as a national priority for the Government.

Education underpinned by real-world challenges

In turn our degrees, training, and education deliver the skills of the future, underpinned by real-world challenges and the needs of our industrial partners. As a result, our education programmes are cutting-edge and designed not just for today’s manufacturing jobs, but for the jobs of the future.

Just this year we launched the WMG Skills Centre, which is dedicated to address the skills shortage facing businesses and industry, both regionally and nationally. The short courses offered bring future skills to business in key areas such as automotive, manufacturing, and digital healthcare.

WMG research indicates the automotive sector will need reskilling by 2030, a date which is market driven by the number of electric vehicles on the road in need of service over time. In consultation with the Faraday Institution and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, WMG developed the National Electrification Skills Framework. The Framework sets out the new technologies and skills that are needed for the workforce to meet the challenge of net carbon zero and ensure the UK is ready for the transition to electric vehicles.

At WMG we are proud to offer more degree apprenticeships than almost any other Russell Group university. We work with our industry partners to develop programmes for undergraduates and postgraduates, that provide apprentices with new knowledge which they take back into their companies and organisations. We opened our Degree Apprenticeship Centre in 2021 to ensure these learners had a dedicated space in which to learn and engage.

We launched a collaboration with The Dyson Institute to develop a bespoke part-time undergraduate degree, BEng (Hons) Degree Apprenticeship in Engineering. Working closely with engineers from Dyson we developed a degree apprenticeship curriculum that could be delivered by WMG teaching staff directly on Dyson’s Research and Development Campus.

Embedding sustainability

In recent years, our focus has shifted towards Net Zero and sustainability, a process that has accelerated in to becoming the focus of almost everything that we do at WMG. Our research, co-created with industry, has led to hugely exciting breakthroughs in electrification, autonomous vehicles, personal mobility, and materials.

For example, in September 2021 WMG hosted the UK’s first Micromobility Conference. Trials, demonstrations, and presentations brought the industry and policymakers together to debate and drive forward Micromobility. Trials of new technology are being undertaken on campus, with outcomes which will fundamentally change how we move around urban areas.

Our teams also work closely with Government, including the Department for Transport and Department for Business, Energy, Innovation, and Skills. We are helping to shape regulation and long-term government policy, as well as giving smaller manufacturers a voice on regulation likely to shape their operations.


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