UK unveils £106m for zero emissions tech, £500m from industry

UK unveils £106m for zero emissions tech, £500m from industry

UPDATED A £106 million package for projects developing green battery, vehicle and refuelling technology is to be unveiled today by the prime minister at the UK’s first ever Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Summit.

The central investment will be backed by a £500 million inward investment round from industry.

Building on the government’s Road to Zero strategy and the Future of Mobility Grand Challenge – part of the new Industrial Strategy – the summit aims to spur the development of the zero-emission vehicle market worldwide.

The two-day series of events in Birmingham and Buckinghamshire brings together ministers, industry leaders, and sector representatives to tackle the challenge of reducing carbon emissions and find new ways to improve air quality.

It aims to provide opportunities to share learnings between countries that have advanced zero-emission policies/markets and those that are looking to develop them.

The summit is also designed to help facilitate new multilateral and unilateral commitments on tangible action to support zero-emission technologies.

To herald the event, the government yesterday announced £2 million in new funding to support the uptake of e-cargo bikes – electric bikes for last-mile delivery.

The government believes e-bikes and other electric last-mile options will help tackle the growing problem of diesel vans in crowded cities, created in part by the popularity of online shopping.

Ambitious mission

Speaking at day one of the event in Birmingham today, Theresa May will set out an “ambitious mission” for the UK to become a world leader in low-emission technology.

At the summit, the prime minister will also host an automotive roundtable with leading supply-chain companies from Germany, the USA, Japan, China, Spain, and India, to explore what more the government and industry can do together to accelerate the development of the zero-emissions market.

This is the third in the government’s series of investment roundtables, which are designed to promote UK industry sector opportunities to a global audience, and drive foreign direct-investment into the UK as the country prepares to leave the European Union next year.

Birmingham Declaration

The government will also unveil a new international declaration that will forge the way for the worldwide deployment of green vehicles, and the introduction of smart, zero-emission infrastructures.

The first signatories to the ‘Birmingham Declaration’ include Italy, France, Denmark, the United Arab Emirates, Portugal, Belarus, and Indonesia, with more nations currently in talks to sign up.

This will form the basis of increasing international engagement at climate conferences throughout the year, says the government.

New money on the table

The prime minister is expected to say: “I have set this country an ambitious mission: to put the UK at the forefront of the design and manufacturing of zero-emission vehicles, and for all new cars and vans to be, effectively, zero-emission by 2040.

“Today we have provided over £100 million of funding for innovators in ultra-low emission vehicles and hydrogen technology. With a further £500 million of investment from key industries in this sector.

“These measures will drive the design, use, uptake and infrastructure necessary for cleaner, greener vehicles – and in doing so, it will help us drastically reduce a major contributor to our global warming emissions, as we seek to meet the Paris Climate Change Agreement.”

The £500 million industry investments in projects relating to low emission technology include:

  • JEE is investing around £6 million in the UK to establish an assembly and testing facility in Birmingham.
  • Aston Martin is announcing a further £50 million investment at its new St Athan facility in Wales, which will become its centre for electrification and the home of the Lagonda brand. The investment will create an additional 200 jobs at the site and, in total, the new plant will bring up to 750 high0skilled jobs to South Wales, according to the government.
  • Engines and power-generation giant Cummins will invest £210 million in R&D in the automotive (and associated) industries over the next three years in the UK.
  • The EV Network (EVN), a UK-based charging station development company, is establishing 200 fast-charging stations throughout the UK, representing an investment of around £200 million. EVN has joined forces with Leclanché, which will be supplying battery-storage solutions to the stations. Meanwhile, the two companies are announcing an EV Charging Centre of Excellence in Warwick.
  • The new Williams Advanced Engineering and Unipart joint-venture, Hyperbat, will open the UK’s largest independent vehicle battery manufacturing plant in Coventry in early 2019. The site will create around 90 new high-tech jobs.
  • Zhuzhou CRRC Times Electric Co, a subsidiary of CRRC, has confirmed Birmingham as the location for its new UK R&D innovation centre for electric vehicles, rail, and renewables. The centre will employ more than 150 engineers by 2022, with an overall investment of up to £50 million.
  • Lloyds Banking Group, the principal partner of the ZEV Summit, is announcing a new £1 million fund for electric vehicle leases to incentivise zero-emission driving.
  • Ryobi Aluminium Casting UK is investing £7 million in melting furnace and die-casting machines, to increase production of precision transmission components.
  • Lear Corporation is investing £54 million in its UK seating operations, with £19 million to go into capital and training and £35 million into engineering. The investment creates 220 jobs and safeguards 600, according to the government.
  • Science and engineering company QinetiQ is expanding its power sources, energy storage, and distribution business, growing its team by 25 percent and making an initial £2 million investment in facilities in Farnborough over the next nine months.
  • Leoni will be investing £7 million in a new technical centre in South Warwickshire, creating over 100 new design and development jobs, working with major OEMs in developing technologies for the next generation of autonomous and electric vehicles.
  • And MINTH plans to establish a new facility in the UK to service new orders from UK OEMs. It is also developing new products to reflect the shift towards lightweight electrification and autonomous driving in the automotive industry.

Internet of Business says

Despite mounting internal criticism of the UK’s handling of Brexit, the government is doing a good job of presenting the country’s ambitions across a number of different technologies, including AI, robotics, and zero emissions vehicles.

On the back of the new Industrial Strategy, the government has pulled together a range of deals that more than match public funds with new business investment.

However, whether the central investment is enough in the context of Brexit – and the potential loss of funds from the EU itself – is an open question.

One challenge for the UK is that the strong, positive message of the Industrial Strategy and the new Sector Deals is being lost amidst the lack of a coherent vision for the UK’s place outside Europe – a problem of phasing, in effect, of two signals cancelling each other out.

That’s unfortunate, as for many years the government has failed to make a strong enough case for technology leadership in the 21st Century.

Now that it is finally pushing a coherent message in that regard, its impact is being lost by the lack of a similarly coherent message about Brexit.

This may be evidence of a lack of joined-up thinking within Whitehall: a serpentine administrative organisation that is too fragmented and complex for purpose.

Chris Middleton
Chris Middleton is the editor of Internet of Business, and specialises in robotics, AI, the IoT, blockchain, and technology strategy. He is former editor of Computing, Computer Business Review, and Professional Outsourcing, among others, and is a contributing editor to Diginomica, Computing, and Hack & Craft News. Over the years, he has also written for Computer Weekly, The Guardian, The Times, PC World, I-CIO, V3, The Inquirer, and Blockchain News, among many others. He is an acknowledged robotics expert who has appeared on BBC TV and radio, ITN, and Talk Radio, and is probably the only tech journalist in the UK to own a number of humanoid robots, which he hires out to events, exhibitions, universities, and schools. Chris has also chaired conferences on robotics, AI, digital marketing, and space exploration, and spoken at numerous other events.