EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
Department Name: Mechanical Engineering

Abstract

The CDT in Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems will produce the graduates who will bring together the many technical disciplines and skills needed to allow propulsion systems to transition to a more sustainable future.

By creating an environment for our graduates to research new propulsion systems and the wider context within which they sit, we will form the individuals who will lead the scientific, technological, and behavioural changes required to effect the transformation of personal mobility.

The CDT will become an internationally leading centre for interdisciplinary doctoral training in this critical field for UK industrial strategy. We will train a cohort of 84 high quality research leaders, adding value to academia and the UK automotive industry.

There are three key aspects to the success of the CDT -

First, a diverse range of graduates will be recruited from across the range of first degrees. Graduates in engineering (mechanical, electrical, chemical), sciences (physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology), management and social sciences will be recruited and introduced to the automotive propulsion sector. The resulting skills mix will allow transformational research to be conducted.

Second, the training given to this cohort, re-enforced by a strong group working ethos, will prepare the graduates to make an effective contribution to the industry. This will require training in the current and future methods (technical and commercial) used by the industry. We also need the graduates to have highly developed interpersonal skills and to be experienced in effective group working. Understanding how people and companies work is just as important as an understanding the technology. On the technology side, a broad system level understanding of the technology landscape and the relationship between the big picture and the graduate's own expertise is essential. We have designed a programme that enriches the student's knowledge and experience in these key areas.

Third, underpinning all of these attributes will be the graduate's research skills, acquired through the undertaking of an intensive research project within the new £60 million Institute for Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems (IAAPS), designed from the outset to provide a rich collaborative environment and add value to the UK economy. IAAPS will be equipped with world leading experimental facilities designed for future powertrain systems and provides dedicated space for industry and academia to collaborate to deliver research valued at over £100 million during the lifetime of the CDT.

The cohort will contribute to and benefit from this knowledge development, providing opportunities to conduct research at a whole system level. This will address one of the most pressing challenges of our age - the struggle to provide truly sustainable, affordable, connected, zero emissions transport needed by both industrialised and emerging economies.

To enable these benefits we request funding for 40 studentships and the infrastructure to provide a world class training environment. The university will enhance this through the funding of an additional 20 studentships and access to research facilities, together valued at £5 million. Cash and in-kind contributions from industrial partners valued at a total of £4.5 million will enhance the student experience, providing 9 fully funded PhD places and 30 half funded places. The research undertaken by the students will be co-created and supervised by our industrial partners. The people and research outputs that from the CDT will be adopted directly by these industrial partners to generate lasting real world impact.

Planned Impact

Impact Summary

This proposal has been developed from the ground up to guarantee the highest level of impact. The two principal routes towards impact are via the graduates that we train and by the embedding of the research that is undertaken into commercial activity. The impact will have a significant commercial value through addressing skills requirements and providing technical solutions for the automotive industry - a key sector for the UK economy.

The graduates that emerge from our CDT (at least 84 people) will be transformative in two distinct ways. The first is a technical route and the second is cultural.

In a technical role, their deep subject matter expertise across all of the key topics needed as the industry transitions to a more sustainable future. This expertise is made much more accessible and applicable by their broad understanding of the engineering and commercial context in which they work. They will have all of the right competencies to ensure that they can achieve a very significant contribution to technologies and processes within the sector from the start of their careers, an impact that will grow over time. Importantly, this CDT is producing graduates in a highly skilled sector of the economy, leading to jobs that are £50,000 more productive per employee than average (i.e. more GVA). These graduates are in demand, as there are a lack of highly skilled engineers to undertake specialist automotive propulsion research and fill the estimated 5,000 job vacancies in the UK due to these skills shortages. Ultimately, the CDT will create a highly specialised and productive talent pipeline for the UK economy.

The route to impact through cultural change is perhaps of even more significance in the long term. Our cohort will be highly diverse, an outcome driven by our wide catchment in terms of academic background, giving them a 'diversity edge'. The cultural change that is enabled by this powerful cohort will have a profound impact, facilitating a moe away from 'business as usual'.

The research outputs of the CDT will have impact in two important fields - the products produced and processes used within the indsutry. The academic team leading and operating this CDT have a long track record of generating impact through the application of their research outputs to industrially relevant problems. This understanding is embodied in the design of our CDT and has already begun in the definition of the training programmes and research themes that will meet the future needs of our industry and international partners. Exchange of people is the surest way to achieve lasting and deep exchange of expertise and ideas. The students will undertake placements at the collaborating companies and will lead to employment of the graduates in partner companies.

The CDT is an integral part of the IAAPS initiative. The IAAPS Business Case highlights the need to develop and train suitably skilled and qualified engineers in order to achieve, over the first five years of IAAPS' operations, an additional £70 million research and innovation expenditure, creating an additional turnover of £800 million for the automotive sector, £221 million in GVA and 1,900 new highly productive jobs.

The CDT is designed to deliver transformational impact for our industrial partners and the automotive sector in general. The impact is wider than this, since the products and services that our partners produce have a fundamental part to play in the way we organise our lives in a modern society. The impact on the developing world is even more profound. The rush to mobility across the developing world, the increasing spending power of a growing global middle class, the move to more urban living and the increasingly urgent threat of climate change combine to make the impact of the work we do directly relevant to more people than ever before. This CDT can help change the world by effecting the change that needs to happen in our industry.

Publications

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