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DER Centre investment

Powering up the UK net zero supply chain

Published on: 23 March 2021

Newcastle University is leading a national programme where companies will benefit from a £28.5m investment into cutting-edge equipment to help them achieve the UK’s net zero ambitions.

Investment from Driving the Electric Revolution, at UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), is providing a critical financial boost to nine facilities located across the UK.  

The £28.5m investment in new equipment, which will be operational later this year, builds on existing capability and fills gaps in the UK’s current capability.  

The investment will enable a competitive electrification supply chain to be built across a variety of sectors, including industrial, transport and energy.

New equipment

The new equipment consists of:

  • Assembly lines for power electronics and electrical machines at the North East Innovation Centre, Sunderland. 
  • A high power integrated electrical propulsion and powertrain accelerator at the Power Networks Demonstration Centre, University of Strathclyde. 
  • A high frequency coil manufacturing and magnetic test facility at the University of Nottingham. 
  • A power electronics reliability and failure analysis facility and an electrical machines winding centre of excellence at the University of Warwick. 
  • A wide band gap power electronics component industrial pilot line at Swansea University. 
  • A production line for recycled sintered magnets at the University of Birmingham. 
  • A prototype facility for ceramic and copper elements and subassemblies for integrated modules at the Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult in Newport.

Led by Newcastle University, this investment will play a vital role in bringing together a UK-wide network of more than 30 academic, research and technology organisations. 

The network gives businesses the opportunity to develop manufacturing process technologies and industrialise the processes needed for Power Electronics, Machines and Drives (PEMD) scale up, whilst reducing risk by sharing expertise, technical advice and facilities. 

Professor Brian WalkerPro-Vice-Chancellor, Research Strategy and Resources at Newcastle University, said: “We are delighted to be leading the Driving the Electric Revolution Industrialisation Centres (DER-IC) national project.  

“The support from UKRI allows us to bring to life a vision that was conceived by colleagues from across the UK and connects the UK’s best research and development 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." 

Regional centres

Four regional Industrialisation Centres in the North East, Scotland, the South West and Wales, and the Midlands will coordinate and build on the UK’s national capability to deliver long-term sustainable growth on the road to net zero.

Together they will help businesses scale up the use of electric-powered vehicles and machines across a range of industries and transport systems to grow the UK supply chain. 

Rachel Chambers, Chief Operating Officer for DER-IC North East, said: “The North East is in a unique position to support the UK's ambitious goal of carbon net zero given its electrification capability.   

The North East LEP and Sunderland Council’s support has been essential to the establishment of the DER-IC North East. 

“We are working closely with our industry partners to accelerate the growth of supply chain by developing and scaling up manufacturing capability, whilst also supporting skills development, inward investment, re-shoring and UK company investment.” 

The DER-IC North East partners involve Sheffield University (including Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre) Centre for Process Innovation, Offshore Renewable Energy catapult, TWI, Northumbria University and Teesside University. 

Alan Welby, Innovation Director at the North East LEP, said: “This investment in the region places the North East at the centre of the UK’s PEMD supply chain.  

“We have the businesses, knowhow and partnerships to accelerate significant global growth and seize the opportunities from the global transition to clean technologies and electrification. 

“Newcastle University is the world-leader in this space and government backing for the University to coordinate the national network of centres demonstrates their leading role.”

Switching from fossil fuel

This investment will have applications across transport, industrial and energy sectors – all with the aim of switching away from fossil fuel.

Alan Johnson, Nissan Vice President for Manufacturing in the UK, said: “In September, the 100% electric Nissan LEAF hit 500,000 sales globally and is built in Sunderland.  

“The development of a competitive supply chain is critical to this growing sector, which is why we welcome this funding for the Driving the Electric Revolution Industrialisation Centres, including one in the North East.” 

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