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A new £30m network of industrial centres led by Newcastle University

Newcastle University is leading a national network of four cutting-edge centres across to enable faster collaborative research and development of electric machines - including cars, planes and ships.

The Driving the Electric Revolution Centres (DER Centres) are backed by £30m Government funding and will provide open access facilities with state-of-the-art equipment, bringing together the UK’s technology and manufacturing expertise in electrification research and development.

The network will help propel UK manufacturing to the forefront of global efforts to tackle climate change and ensure the UK can reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Key focus of research

The DER Centres are part of the Government’s Driving the Electric Revolution challenge, which aims to help the UK Power Electronics Motors and Drives (PEMD) supply chain seize the economic opportunities from the global transition to clean technologies and electrification.

The centres will help businesses across numerous sectors, including transport, energy, construction and agriculture, to invest and work together to capitalise on the UK’s strengths in this technology.

Newcastle University will also head up the DER Centre North East at the Innovation Centre, International Advanced Manufacturing Park, based in Sunderland, which is an £18m investment from Sunderland City Council.

Professor Chris Day, Vice-Chancellor and President of Newcastle University, said: “We are committed to expanding our leading research in this important area and working alongside our regional and national partners to deliver a UK-based, globally-leading supply chain that will scale up the use of electric-powered vehicles and other motors across a range of industries and transport systems.

“The DER Challenge, and the reduction in carbon it will help bring about, is a key focus for research at Newcastle University as we progress towards achieving the Government’s carbon neutral target by 2050.”  

This investment will have applications for electric vehicles, as well as other industries, including rail, marine, aerospace and energy – all with the aim of switching away from fossil fuel.

A home for virtual product development, digital manufacturing and advanced assembly techniques, the centres are expected to drive world-leading improvements in the testing and manufacturing of electric machines, bolstering both the design of physical components and electrification technologies.

This includes power electronics, electric machines and drives, all of which are crucial to controlling electricity in electric vehicles and ultimately to their widespread rollout on our streets.

More than 30 partner research and technology organisations will be a part of the centres. Newcastle University, along with 21 other UK universities, plus 13 research and technology organisations, will be key to leading the centres as they are essential in attracting foreign investment and new, innovative projects.

Exciting time for North East

Rachel Chambers, Chief Operating Officer for DER Centre North East, said: “This is an exciting time for PEMD in the UK and, in particular, for the North East. 

“Newcastle University is leading the national DER Centre programme and is seen as one of the ‘go-to places’ for research excellence in this field. 

“The DER Centres’ programme will catalyse the growth of the existing well-established PEMD supply chain through manufacturing process development and industrialisation activities.

“This is a great time for the region as we grow the UK PEMD supply chain to ensure the UK can reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, as well as growing the UK’s position in PEMD supply by becoming a global leader.”

The DER Centre North East partners include Sheffield University, Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and the Centre for Process Innovation the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and the Offshore Renewable Energy catapult, as well as most of the regional academic institutions.

Leading the way

The investment into the DER Centres is through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and will boost the North East and UK’s position as a world leader in electrification.

Business Secretary and COP26 President, Alok 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.”

Charging electric car

published on: 9 March 2020