Investing in a green revolution: how R&D is anchoring manufacturing in the UK

Blog post by Ian Constance, CEO APC UK.

“Green is good, green is right, green works,” said the Prime Minister at Tuesday’s Global Investment Summit. I couldn’t agree more. It’s been an amazing week, with new green automotive investment ensuring that the UK’s automotive manufacturing light still shines bright.  

With Monday bringing news of Ford’s commitment to the UK, via a landmark investment into electrifying its Halewood plant, the sector has much to be proud of. Commentators are celebrating Ford’s £230 million investment, the jobs safeguarded, and potential for new roles created – as are we at the APC. 

Yet for me, the figures really at the heart of this news have fewer digits, but a deeper story: eight years, seven projects, a shared goal of achieving net-zero emissions. As with the Nissan Gigafactory announcement in July, Ford’s decision confirms that the UK’s attractiveness goes beyond our reputation as a top location for high-quality manufacturing. Whilst Kwasi Kwarteng noted this as a key factor, there’s recognition that there’s strength in our absolute commitment towards a clean green future, with strong OEMs and revitalised supply chains.  

Since 2013, our seven collaborative R&D projects with Ford – most notably ViVID and E:PRiME – have steadily helped establish Ford UK’s net-zero knowledge, capabilities and confidence. Well before the choice was made, late-stage R&D honed in Dunton helped prepare the ground for the decision that Halewood’s production lines will deliver a quarter of a million electric drive units each year by 2024 – signalling the UK’s steadfast commitment to transforming our automotive industry. To quote my colleague, Julian Hetherington: “having that engineering expertise in the UK makes a stronger case for siting the manufacturing activity here and accelerates the UK’s progress towards net zero.” 

Zero emission automotive technology is transformative in as much as it inspires investors’ trust. It’s clear that investment in R&D unlocks that and empowers companies to put their faith in the UK. 

£350 million for Automotive Transformation Fund signalling long-term commitment the EV supply chain

Then on Tuesday, the value of our R&D investment was further bolstered as the announcement came within the new Net Zero Strategy, released during the Global Investment Summit, that the government is committing an additional £350 million to the Automotive Transformation Fund (ATF), the capital investment programme managed by APC.  

The ATF is integral to industrialising the electrified automotive supply chain at scale and pace in the UK and the renewed commitment sets a hugely positive tone.  

Starting small: SMEs are key to the competitive supply chain that attracts investment 

These multi-million-pound announcements are a huge step forward for our industry’s fight against global climate change; however, let us not forget that it is not just the major names that need our attention and investment. To ensure a healthy pipeline of new innovative product development and developers, we need fresh thinking and disruption within the sector. 

For that reason, it is fantastic to announce the sixth wave of our Technology Developer Accelerator Programme (TDAP) opens for expressions of interest on 28th October.  

The competition has been immensely popular in past rounds, with relatively modest investment resulting in mighty leaps forward in green technology development. One such project is LiNa Energy, currently part of our Wave 5 programme, who are commercialising a safe, cobalt and lithium free solid-state sodium battery and following important industry introductions via our TDAP team, have just this month closed out a £3.5 million late seed funding round. 

With success stories like this, I can’t wait to see what a sixth cohort of SMEs can achieve.

Glasgow goes green 

As I write this, we are just 10 days away from world leaders descending on Glasgow for COP26 and two APC project partners Wrightbus and eOX will be there demonstrating the power of UK-based innovation at its very best. 

I am excited to see what comes out of this landmark event and will be sharing my insights from the fortnight in our next newsletter.