Ratan Tata launches automotive innovation centre in UK

Tata Group Chairman Emeritus Ratan Tata today laid the foundation stone for a new 150-million pound automotive innovation centre, planned as the largest research facility of its kind in Europe, to create the next generation of vehicles for the global market.

Tata was accompanied by his successor, Cyrus P Mistry, at the launch of the National Automotive Innovation Centre (NAIC), to be operational at the University of Warwick campus in Coventry by 2017.

"This foundation today is an investment in the future which will bring academia and industry together, revive the skills and capability of various industries to rebuild the prominence of the UK in the area of manufacturing," Tata said.

"It will bring tens of thousands of jobs and as we look into the future, I would say that today will be a memorable moment," he noted.

The NAIC is planned as the largest automotive research centre of its kind in Europe.

It is funded by Tata MotorsBSE -1.32 % and its UK firm Jaguar Land Rover, the University of Warwick and the UK Government's Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

The 33,000 square meter complex will provide space for 1,000 engineers, designers and academics to work together, from apprentices to senior managers.

"One wants to see the UK shine again as the centre for manufacturing. I have some doubt on how many years are left, but if circumstances are right then I look forward to coming here and seeing what we have laid the foundation stone for today - a new centre for excellence and innovation," Ratan Tata said in reference to a project he has been associated with from its very conception a few years ago.

He recalled how he was taken on a journey around the city of Coventry, in central England, long before the Tata Group had considered acquiring the JLR brands from Ford by Prof Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya, chairman of the Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) and the brains behind the new centre.

He said: "I was flabbergasted with the capability of all that I saw -- understated and under the radar. It led me to believe that the UK had this enormous potential of talent, resource, ingenuity that somehow was not being fully utilised. This is long before we ever looked at JLR as a company to acquire.

"When we were approached to be one of the bidders for JLR, there was a renewed interest in something that we could do here. All we did was provided funds because Europe and the UK were in the throes of a recession and a downturn; we had the faith to say that we could work together to rebuild the glory of the brands that we had acquired.

"The people who did it were the people of JLR. It proves that the capability is here to be used and to be developed."

The new high-tech research facilities at the NAIC will include a design and simulation space creating innovative automotive solutions as well as the world's most adaptable and advanced fully immersive drive-in car simulator.

JLR and Tata Motors will also use the centre to take forward autonomous driverless vehicles research through a 19-million pound Autodrive UK project.

Tata Chairman Mistry explained: "This unique resource will provide state-of-the-art engineering and technology labs that will greatly enhance the ability of academia and industry to work side by side on leading edge research to deliver exciting new innovative products and meet the widely held ambition to deliver automotive technology and products that will be smarter, lighter and greener.

"The Tata group shares these objectives to achieve greater sustainability, and is delighted to support their realisation," he said.

Lord Bhattacharyya said: "The automotive industry in the UK has seen a recent resurgence, but for the UK to remain internationally competitive we must create urgently a critical mass in research excellence.

"NAIC will be an 'engine' for economic growth, with wide economic benefit, and sustained growth from the creation of world-leading technologies," Bhattacharyya said.

JLR CEO Ralf Speth said: "The NAIC will have a significant role inspiring the engineers of tomorrow and will help develop the skills we need the UK to nurture and develop to ensure we remain globally competitive."

The new centre will help JLR co-locate 600 of its engineers, researchers and technologists to work collaboratively with academics and R&D specialists from across the automotive supply chain.

It will complement its other UK-based product research and development centres in Gaydon and Whitley, both near Coventry.

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