Event Review: The Deputy Prime Minister and Vince Cable meet NAA members at the BIS Manufacturing Summit
The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, witnessed some of the innovative success stories of the North West automotive industry at the BIS Manufacturing Summit 2014 held at the Floral Pavilion in Merseyside on 19 June
The Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP and the Rt Hon Vince Cable MP visited the Northwest Automotive Alliance (NAA) stand at the event to learn more about the exhibitors and the region’s thriving automotive industry – and how support from government initiatives has helped regional supply chain companies to grow.
Exhibitors included Electron Technical Solutions, Oaktec and Performance Springs. NGF EUROPE and the STRIVE project were also two organisations in attendance that have received funding from the Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative (AMSCI), a funding competition designed to improve the global competitiveness of UK advanced manufacturing supply chains.
All companies exhibiting as part of the NAA stand had received European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) support through the Northwest Automotive Alliance Business Excellence programme, which has helped the businesses to grow.
Electron Technical Solutions, a surface coatings technology company, paints a wide range of automotive components using a fully automated robotic process. Two years ago Electron opened a new state-of-the-art painting facility, and since then the turnover and staff numbers of the business have doubled. Electron is now in the process of growing from being a Tier 2 to a Tier 1 supplier to companies such as Jaguar Land Rover.
Oaktec has also demonstrated impressive progress over recent years, helped by support from organisations including the NAA, the Technology Strategy Board and the Niche Vehicle Network. Oaktec is also the national winner of the 2014 Shell Springboard low carbon innovation award for developing Pulse-R, a new engine concept for burning any conventional fuel or biofuel efficiently, but with unique characteristics that make it especially efficient when burning gas fuels such as LPG and bio-methane. It has the ability to ‘self supercharge’ without any external forced induction, improving performance and reducing CO2 emissions in the process.
Another automotive supplier that is currently expanding, with help from the Regional Growth Fund, is Performance Springs. The company manufactures precision springs for high performance applications, and also offers a service for the analysis and fine-tuning of spring design. Valve springs in particular benefit from such expert design input, resulting in increased engine valvetrain efficiency, lower emissions, reduced fuel consumption and improved reliability. Performance Springs is investing in a new manufacturing plant to allow it to lower costs and add new products to its portfolio. A total of nine new jobs are to be created by the new venture. The new plant is partially supported with a £67,000 grant from Regenerate Pennine Lancashire, supported by the government’s Regional Growth Fund. Performance Springs has also received Technology Strategy Board funding for a high value manufacturing feasibility study.
A further success story is NGF EUROPE Limited, a subsidiary company of the NSG Group. Thanks to a £4 million investment – aided by a £528,000 AMSCI grant – NGF EUROPE is now the first fully-integrated, high tensile strength (HTS) glass cord manufacturing factory in Europe, and the only such facility outside Japan. Glass cord is used mainly in the automotive industry for the reinforcement of synchronous drive belts – such as timing belts. NGF EUROPE supplies glass cord for the timing belts in the award-winning Ford EcoBoost engine.
The final exhibitor on the North West automotive stand was STRIVE (Simulation Tools for Rapid Innovation in Vehicle Engineering), an AMSCI-funded project to create a new ‘digital’ supply chain for the UK automotive sector. STRIVE is developing an integrated solution of high fidelity simulation, immersive virtual prototypes and processes for evaluation and, ultimately, application for the advancement of the UK automotive industry. The result will be significantly reduced timescales for the development of new vehicles and enhanced build quality. The research and development programme, led by the Northwest Automotive Alliance, is combining next-generation technologies provided by Optis SAS, Icona Solutions and DNA-Agile Group, along with technical integration and research expertise through the University of Liverpool’s Virtual Engineering Centre. Collectively, they are working with Bentley Motors in the development and engineering design of new models.
Carol Holden OBE, Chief Executive of the Northwest Automotive Alliance, commented, “The organisations representing the North West automotive industry at the Manufacturing Summit show the progress that can be made when the innovation of entrepreneurial companies is supported by appropriate government initiatives. This is resulting in the growth of supply chain companies, and economic benefits for the region and the UK as a whole.”
The BIS Manufacturing Summit 2014 reviewed UK manufacturing and hosted business leaders and government ministers. It took place as part of Liverpool’s International Festival of Business.
The Summit highlighted progress in implementing the government’s industrial strategy; it demonstrated the government’s ongoing support and commitment to manufacturing industry in the UK; and it engaged senior business leaders from across the full range of manufacturing sectors in discussing future challenges.
Manufacturing is of vital importance to the UK: it is responsible for 52% of exports and over 2.6 million jobs – 8% of the total UK workforce. It accounts for 72% (£12.2 billion) of all business expenditure on research and development.
The UK’s automotive sector is a key part of the UK economy, generating around £50bn in annual turnover and delivering £10bn in net value-added to the economy. The North West region is the largest producer of vehicles in the UK, valued at over £10bn per annum. Over 17,000 people are directly employed by the vehicle makers and tier 1 suppliers in the region