As part of its Industrial Strategy, the UK Government recently announced an Automotive Sector Deal, the first in a rolling series of intended deals with the sector. The deal builds on the partnership between the UK Government and industry that has been in place since the Automotive Council was established in 2009, setting the direction and long-term strategic priorities for the sector. It ensures that the UK continues to reap the benefits from the transition to ultra-low and zero-emission vehicles by continuing to build the agile, innovative and cost competitive supply chain needed to secure international investment.
For more UK-wide data on the Automotive sector, go to https://invest.great.gov.uk/us/industries/automotive/ .
Within the broader aerospace sector, UTC Aerospace Systems’ advanced composites manufacturer, CTG has completed the construction and fit out of a state-of-the-art Composite Centre of Excellence facility in Banbury, Oxfordshire.
Motorsport is a very strong sector in the Thames Valley but there is much more to the Automotive sector not least the BMW Mini plant. Manufactured to individual customer specifications, hundreds of MINIs leave the assembly line each day shipped to more than 110 countries around the world.
Three UK plants have played major roles in the production of the MINI – Plant Hams Hall makes the engines and Plant Swindon produces body pressings and sub-assemblies. They are then bought together at Plant Oxford where body shell production, paint and final assembly takes place.
Whilst more than 2.5 million cars have been made at Plant Oxford since production of the new MINI started in 2001, the plant’s heritage goes back much further than that. The site has a 100 years of automotive manufacturing history becoming a landmark in the ‘city of dreaming spires’.
Furthermore, Plant Oxford has hit two more major landmarks – the world premiere of the new MINI Hatch in 2013, the production of the new 5-door Hatch in 2014 and the MINI Clubman in November 2015.
Software for autonomous vehicles is a critical part on the automotive sector in the 21st century with Oxbotica leading the world in this field. A company spun out from the University of Oxford in 2014 to develop a ‘brain’ for driverless cars has won a Financial Times ArcelorMittal Boldness in Business award, and were supported by Innovate UK.
Oxbotica’s system uses cameras and lasers to precisely pinpoint on a map, regardless of weather and lighting conditions, without using GPS. It uses a complement of sensors and algorithms to identify and track pedestrians, cars and other obstacles in the environment, transporting users safely to their destination.
Oxford Brookes University has considerable expertise in fuel efficiency and low emission engines. Indeed, their expertise is put to good use is a collaborative R&D project with YASA Motors, which enabled them to prepare for mass production in a market that is predicted to be worth £15bn by 2020.
YASA manufactures a highly differentiated advanced axial flux motor and generator based on its proprietary Yokeless and Segmented Armature (YASA™) technology. For a given power and torque requirement, it can deliver a significantly smaller and lighter electric motor than any other competing technology. Due to its exceptionally high utilisation of magnetic material the technology has an inherently lower cost than competitor motors.
The high performance YASA motors and generators are suitable for range of markets and applications excelling in the toughest environments where weight and space are critical for the end-user.
Automotive research is further strengthened by access to the Diamond Synchrotron, which provides specialist synchrotron analytical techniques for the atomic to microscale characterisation of materials. Ranging from catalytic materials and novel advanced components through to coatings and motor oils.
To keep ahead of the competition, the automotive industry must identify and realise innovative research developments in chemistry, materials science and engineering. A deep understanding of fundamental processes such as catalysis and detailed knowledge of material properties on the molecular scale is vital to developing and maintaining competitive advantage and minimising impact on the environment.