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    Event Review: Future Powertrain Conference, attended by Carol Holden

    I attended the inaugural Future Powertrain Conference 19-20 February at the National Motorcycle Museum, Solihull. The two days were full of technical presentations in two streams covering a multitude of subjects together with several keynote speakers.

    Jerry Hardcastle gave us an entertaining keynote speech on the Wednesday evening challenging us to whether there was a better time to be powertrain engineer, through which he recounted many of his experiences across his career that were significant events in technology development, but did conclude that the rate of change and technical innovation means that now is a really good time to be a powertrain engineer!

    The keynote address from Michael Hurwitz had a range of themes, but the only that appealed to me was in the simple sentence “I drove my car to work”; while many of us would say such a simple sentence today, will that be the case in 10 years time?; each of the phrases “I drove”, “my car”, “to work” is starting to be challenged.

    In cities and elsewhere, many young people do not own their own cars, and look to use car share schemes when they need a vehicle. NAA staff are similar to many others, in that we operate a flexible working policy, which means that you do not have to be present in the office to work – modern technology has really changed this environment, for many a mobile phone and a computer is all you need – many of you won’t realise, that for one day this summer I actually did my work while in our caravan while we were staying in Wareham Forest in Dorset, reception was excellent, the work environment good, and the motivation to get through everything as quickly as possible was high!

    Other presentations that I found very interesting and worthy of a mention included one from Nigel Blenkinsop of Jaguar Land Rover (especially as the NAA had contact with Nigel in his prior role at BAe Systems in Warton) on the building of a Powertrain Division, which included a speeded-up video of the building of the new plant on the M54.

    There were also local speakers with Steve Whelan of Clean Air Power and Dr Andrew Forsyth from the University of Manchester. In addition both Warwick Manufacturing Group and the High Speed Sustainability Manufacturing Institute both spoke about virtual engineering and its role in the manufacturing environment.

    This really was the conference for technical specialists in powertrain to attend and listen to technical presentations. There was also a relevant and good poster display from many of the University research teams present, the first prize went to Imperial College London.

    If the event is to be repeated next year, I would like to see more companies and particularly SMEs make presentations and while there is some overlap with the CENEX Low Carbon Vehicle Show, it is never possible to see all presentations at each of these events because of the number that run in parallel, so the two events provide an opportunity to catch up on the ongoing technical activity.

    Carol Holden

    European Regional Development Fund Northern Powerhouse
    Partners Department for Business Innovation and Skills Finance Birmingham