Drives and Controls Magazine
UK government gives electrical machines a £37m boost
Published:  05 March, 2020

The UK business secretary Alok Sharma has announced a £36.7m investment programme to design, test and manufacture electric machines for future low-carbon transport applications, aimed at helping the UK to achieve its net-zero carbon emissions target by 2050. The bulk of the funding (£30m) will be used to create four new centres of excellence – in Newport, Nottingham, Strathclyde and Sunderland – that will research and develop green electric machines, for applications including planes, ships and cars.

A further £6.7m will be awarded to 14 projects that will help to ensure that final buyers in supply chains – such as large automotive manufacturers – can access the components they need to develop electric machines with ease.

The new centres and the winning projects are part of the government’s Driving the Electric Revolution challenge, which aims to help UK manufacturers to seize the opportunities arising from the global transition to clean technologies and electrification. They will help businesses across a variety of sectors to invest and work together to capitalise on the UK’s strengths in these areas.

Announcing the investment programme, Sharma said: “The electric revolution is an opportunity for our transport sectors to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels. The UK is leading the way in developing cleaner technologies to help us reach our target of zero emissions by 2050 and these new centres will play an important part in that.”

The four centres of excellence will develop virtual product, digital manufacturing and advanced assembly technologies that could drive world-leading improvements in the testing and manufacturing of electrical machines. Areas in which they will operate will include power electronics, electric machines and drives.

More than 30 partner research and technology organisations will work with the centres. The network will be led by Newcastle University, and other participants will includes 21 UK universities as well as 13 research and technology organisations. They aim to attract both foreign investment and new entrants to the field.

The network will specialise in researching and developing the technologies needed to electrify road transport as well as other industries such as rail, marine, aerospace and energy, with the aim helping them to move away from fossil fuels.

UK business secretary Alok Sharma: “The electric revolution is an opportunity for our transport sectors to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels.”

The locations of the four DER (Driving the Electric Revolution) centres are:
• North East – Cesam (the Centre for Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing) in Sunderland;
• Scotland – University of Strathclyde, NMIS (the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland) and the PNDC (Power Networks Demonstration Centre);
• Midlands – distributed facilities, focussed on the University of Nottingham’s Power Electronics & Machines Centre; and
• South Wales & South West – distributed facilities, coordinated by the Compound Semiconductor Application Catapult Innovation Centre in Newport.

The 14 winning projects for the Driving the Electric Revolution challenge will help to boost supply chain efficiencies in industries affected by electrification – from aerospace to automotive, to energy and rail. The projects will share total funding of £6.7m, and will involve 38 UK businesses including GKN, Jaguar Land Rover and Rolls-Royce.

The winning projects include:
• one, led by Belcan Engineering Services, to develop and scale up UK manufacturing capabilities for electric machines for use in planes and cars;
• a second, run by the Compound Semiconductor Centre in Cardiff, that aims to ensure that power semiconductor materials reach the final buyers in supply chains more quickly and efficiently; and
• a third, led by Magtec of Sheffield, that aims to improve productivity in manufacturing electric drivelines for large electric vehicles, such as rubbish trucks.

Other successful applicants include:
Paragraf of Cambridge, which is working with Rolls-Royce, Semelab, Aero Stanrew and the Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult;
• London-based Magway, which is working with Force Engineering, Aecom and Space Syntax;
• Nottingham-based Search for the Next, which will be working with Semefab;
• the Lincoln-based power semiconductor specialist Dynex Semiconductor, which is working with London’s City University;
• the Oxfordshire motor developer Yasa, which will be working with the Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult;
TRW of Pontypool which will work with Romax Technology;
Lentus Composites of Eynsham, Oxfordshire, working with NCC Operations;
WMG at the University of Warwick, which is collaborating with Voltalogic, Ashwoods Automotive and Hydro Aluminium Rolled Products;
API Capacitors of Great Yarmouth, working with the Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult and Integral Powertrain;
Cogent Power, working with Compound Semiconductor Centre, Microsemi Semiconductor and Advanced Hall Sensors; and
C. Brandauer & Co of Birmingham, working with WMG at the University of Warwick and Jaguar Land Rover.