THE low carbon vehicle industry will get a £6m boost from a new industry centre this year which will create around 150 jobs.
Gateshead College plans to create an International Centre for Low Carbon Vehicle Development with the purchase of a 2,000sq m facility in Sunderland.
The centre is hoped to spearhead the growth of the industry by focusing research and development and attracting new companies to set up business there. The research will forge new relationships between universities and companies and help to create new products as well as develop current vehicles and technology.
The college has bought Barmston Court – once home to Nissan’s Design Centre – to build on the success of its neighbouring Skills Academy for Sustainable Manufacturing and Innovation (SASMI), which opened last year.
Richard Thorold, principal and chief executive of Gateshead College, said: “Our investment in this centre marks the next phase in our strategy for low carbon vehicles. Gateshead College has already achieved a global reputation as a leader in training and skills for the sustainable manufacturing sector that is so critical to our region’s future economic growth.
“SASMI has been a huge success and is already operating at full capacity. We believe this new centre will echo that success but in different ways, supporting high level research and development and training in the low carbon vehicle sector in North East England.”
Six companies have already expressed an interest in working at the centre which will be managed by Zero Carbon Futures, launched last year by Gateshead College to oversee the development of the low carbon vehicle sector.
Key areas of work will include infrastructure development, research into batteries and energy storage including battery second life and the development of home energy management systems (HEMS) linked to the vehicle.
The centre will also be home to pioneering partnership work between Gateshead College, sustainability experts tadea, transport consultancy TRL and low carbon vehicle advocates Zero Carbon Futures and home to their new driver training centre.
Dr Colin Herron, managing director of Zero Carbon Futures, said: “Low Carbon Vehicle development and research is an area of real economic growth for the area.
“We have a global reputation for low carbon innovation and this centre will bring together the specialist expertise to help us to maintain that position and drive it forward for the benefit of the North East. The development of this centre is a cornerstone of our strategy to place us at the centre of worldwide product knowledge, development and research.”
Barmston Court is 21,528 sq ft and the surrounding land is 6.4 acres – providing significant scope for future phases of the development.
The centre and some of its work will initially be funded by a combination of public and private sector funding. The building of more space on the site is hoped to be funded by Regional Growth Fund money later this year.
The company has already raised £6.3m from the RGF to develop the centre, part of which will be used to link it to the UK’s only dedicated low carbon vehicle test track.
Barmston Court was originally built as the Nissan Design Centre before NMUK relocated this department to Cranfield in 1991. Until four years ago it belonged to the Forensic Science Service; some of the laboratories from this period will be re-used as clean rooms for the development of low carbon vehicle technologies, particularly batteries.