24 Jul 2024


£28.5m initiative aims to keep UK ahead in drive tech

Professor Will Drury: aiming to give all UK businesses and researchers the ability to develop new PEMD technologies and manufacturing processes

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is investing £28.5m in nine facilities across the UK aimed at building a competitive drive and motor supply chain across sectors including industrial, transport and energy. The programme, part of the Driving the Electric Revolution initiative, will build on existing capabilities and fill gaps in the UK’s current capabilities in PEMD (power electronics, machines and drives) technologies. The facilities are due to start operating later this year.

The investment will bring together a UK-wide network of more than 30 academic, research and technology organisations, led by Newcastle University. It will give businesses the opportunity to develop manufacturing technologies and industrialise the processes needed to scale up PEMD activities, while cutting risks by sharing expertise, technical advice and facilities.

Four regional Industrialisation Centres – in Scotland, the South West & Wales, the North East, and the Midlands – will coordinate and build on the UK’s national capability to deliver long-term sustainable growth on the path to the Government’s target of net-zero carbon emissions. They will help businesses to scale up the use of electrically-powered machines and vehicles across a variety of industries and transport systems to expand the UK supply chain.

Beneficiaries of the new UKRI funding include:
• assembly lines for power electronics and electrical machines at the North East Innovation Centre in Sunderland;
• a power electronics reliability and failure analysis facility, and a centre of excellence for electrical machine windings, at the University of Warwick;
• a high-power integrated electrical propulsion and powertrain accelerator at the University of Strathclyde’s Power Networks Demonstration Centre;
• a line for recycling sintered magnets at the University of Birmingham;
• a high-frequency coil manufacturing and magnetic test facility at the University of Nottingham; and
• a prototype facility for ceramic and copper elements and sub-assemblies for integrated modules at the Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult in Newport.

“This investment represents a vital step forward in making the UK a world leader in PEMD,” says Professor Will Drury, director of the Driving the Electric Revolution Challenge. “With access to the Centres and network open to all, we aim to give all UK businesses and researchers the ability to develop and scale new PEMD technologies and manufacturing processes. Only by investing now in developing PEMD will the UK achieve its net-zero ambitions.”

Professor Brian Walker, pro-vice-chancellor for research strategy and resources at Newcastle University, says that the UKRI support “allows us to bring to life a vision that was conceived by colleagues from across the UK and connects the UK’s best r&d across PEMD. It is essential that the UK grasps the opportunity to lead in providing supply chains for electrification of multiple modes of transport if we are to maintain our manufacturing capacity and meet our targets for electric vehicles in 2030 and net-zero carbon by 2050.”

Professor James Widmer, CEO of the Washington-based motor and drive developer Advanced Electric Machines, says that new centres are “critical to AEM’s plan to scale from 1,000s to 100,000s of electric motors per year. These centres will help us to develop manufacturing capability and supply chain links to support our customers around the globe. We believe in the UK as a global centre for electrification; the Centres are key to announcing this capability to the world.”

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