How do we change the world in just 10 years?
An update from Ian Constance – Chief Executive Officer, APC UK
In the next decade, the automotive sector must accelerate our transition to net-zero, safeguard supply chains and invest in UK industry – how do we pave the road ahead?
On Wednesday, I was delighted to kick off this year’s Cenex-LCV and Cenex-CAM show at UTAC Millbrook Proving Ground, Bedfordshire. It marked a welcome return to a physical format but, for the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), it also marked a milestone as we unveiled the winners of our Advanced Route to Market Demonstrator (ARMD) competition, introduced in response to COVID-19 R&D challenges.
ARMD was launched in June last year at the height of the pandemic, when the global automotive industry was at a near standstill, to kick-start innovation back into action.
The 12 projects unveiled by Trudy Harrison MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, demonstrated the phenomenal progress delivered in less than a year by those working within the sector, from organisations large and small, leading to new or safeguarded jobs and financial growth. It is the very definition of the Prime Minister’s goal of building back better – anchoring clean automotive manufacturing in the UK.
Where we have come from: the last 10 years
Walking around the show, I reflected on what we had achieved since 2013. Seeing organisations who were previously, or are actively involved with projects reminded me that we have supported over 170 projects bringing together 402 partners.
So, is it job done? Absolutely not! The next decade must see the automotive sector accelerate to net-zero solutions, safeguard supply chains and invest in UK industry to ensure we remain relevant – and the APC is central to that.
The time is now: an ecosystem of innovation
The race is on and investment in technology is critical. I believe there are four primary drivers for success.
Firstly, we need OEMs to commit to the move to EV and net-zero ICE vehicles. In her opening remarks to the event delegation, Trudy Harrison MP mentioned Stellantis at Ellesmere Port going fully electric and Nissan, who along with Envision AESC have committed to make their Sunderland plant their second largest EV-hub outside Japan, building a gigafactory to support that growth. This is a great start, but we have to support other OEMs to do the same.
This brings me to my second point – the supply chain. We all know that the UK has a rich history of automotive manufacturing and innovation. To fulfil the first driver we need a robust and resilient supply chain. So we must not only transition OEMs to EV platforms, but build a supply chain at scale and pace.
This is where innovation, the third point, comes in. At Cenex-LCV 2021, I was blown away by the sheer progress made in the last few years. We have seen improvements in technology that have enhanced not only performance, but also utility for the end consumer.
Finally, we must remember that net-zero extends beyond the tailpipe. Our journey cannot simply end at the vehicle. We must strive to improve our R&D, manufacturing and supply chain so that we are not producing vehicles with tonnes of embedded carbon.
A vision for the future: an ecosystem of collaboration
APC formed a key part of the UK Government Pavilion, which this year showcased for the first time the whole UK innovation ecosystem, providing advice and guidance from product development, to export and investment, to future policy direction. I feel like this is a step change. Our innovation ecosystem sets us apart and shows how the UK can build back better.
While competition defines the industry, achieving net-zero will only be possible with integration between the infrastructure and vehicles, demonstrating joined-up thinking. The vehicle manufacturers, the technology, the energy infrastructure and policy have to be in step on the same pathway to net zero. We have to collectively focus our efforts and attention on working collaboratively and with government if we are to achieve a solution that works for everyone.