Monday, December 9, 2019

UK Industrial Region Presents its Credentials as the Key Development Area for Transport Connectivity

New Film Sets Out Case for Future Infrastructure Investment and First UK Future Mobility Zone
Shipping News Feature

UK – Whilst the national press this week is making much of the demands and hopes for the 'Northern Powerhouse' in the run up to the General Election, another region is making its voice heard with a new film that promotes transport infrastructure development, something of immense importance to the freight and logistics sector.

The key to the Northern Powerhouse will be its ability to connect industrial sectors which span both Liverpool and Manchester in the west with Newcastle and Middlesbrough on the opposite coast, plus all relevant cities between and around the region. Meanwhile, in the West Midlands, exists a no less important, and considerably less geographically diverse urban and industrial conurbation.

The new film, the ‘Future of Mobility’ showcases the region’s expertise in transport innovation highlights and illustrates how the area is advancing UK ambitions to become a global leader in future mobility technologies. Produced by the West Midlands Growth Company (WMGC), the region’s inward investment agency, in partnership with Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), the film will promote the region’s leading role as the UK’s first Future Mobility Zone (FMZ).

Securing £22 million of government funding in recognition of its R&D excellence in the automotive, rail and aerospace sectors, the West Midlands’ FMZ programme, led by TfWM, brings together industry partners, academic institutions and public sector organisations from across the region to support and accelerate new transport modes and services to market.

Currently, the West Midlands lays down a claim as home to the largest real-world mobility R&D environment in the UK. This includes Midlands Future Mobility, a dedicated test bed route spanning urban, rural and inter-urban roads for businesses looking to advance Connected and Automated Mobility (CAM) solutions.

A number of high-profile trials have taken place across the region to date, including UK Autodrive, the first multi-OEM self-driving vehicle test; first motorway testing of connected and collaborative safety services; and fully self-driving navigation of Coventry’s ring-road by Jaguar Land Rover. Chris Lane, Head of Innovation at Transport for West Midlands, said:

“We see the Future Mobility Zone as more than a programme, it’s the fitting title for the West Midlands as the place to come to develop and demonstrate new products and services with the UK’s best. With our leading organisations and research centres working across technology, automotive, rail, air, electrification, inclusivity and policy, we’ve built the networks, people, assets and support programs to compete internationally for business and deliver real benefits for our people while we’re doing it.”

The FMZ forms part of the region’s wider investment strategy for accelerating innovation in new mobility trends. The West Midlands Local Industrial Strategy, the first regional version of the UK’s wider industrial strategy to be launched, sets out how the region will boost its productivity and earning power by harnessing emerging opportunities in future mobility.

This includes provisions to capitalise on the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre in Coventry, part of the Faraday Battery Challenge, and the region’s status as the UK’s primary multi-city 5G testbed, to become a principal hub for large-scale battery development, electric and Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs). David Fisken, Head of Business Attraction at the West Midlands Growth Company, observed:

“Transport innovation is part of the fabric of our heritage in the West Midlands. As the UK strives to become a world leader in the global future mobility challenge, our region will be trailblazing some of the biggest technological changes in transport systems we’ve seen since the Industrial Revolution.

"As this film shows, the combination of facilities and technologies exclusive to the West Midlands makes it a really exciting time for companies operating in the transport sector to make their mark and test new concepts and innovations that will have a real world impact for future generations.”

The FMZ programme builds on the region’s existing growth corridor from Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Solihull and Coventry. The corridor contains major employment & housing growth opportunities, HS2, Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) test beds and international connectivity via Birmingham Airport. Stephen Bick, Project Director at Siemens Mobility Limited, commented:

“From digitised rail to driverless cars, Siemens Mobility Limited is committed to making the fully connected journey a reality, and as the UK’s first Future Mobility Zone, the West Midlands is at the very heart of our plans. The region is making its mark as the country’s hub of innovation in transport manufacture and infrastructure.

”With major offices across the West Midlands, we’ve been a core part of that development from day one, and our collaborative work with partners such as the UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN), Midlands Future Mobility and UK CITE, is helping to realise the region’s potential in cutting-edge, connected transport systems.”