The ‘future of mobility’ strand of the government’s Industrial Strategy is driving a profound change in how we move people, goods and services around our towns and cities. Professor Warren Manning, Pro Vice-Chancellor Dean of the College of Engineering and Technology at the University of Derby, looks at the momentum the strategy could provide for innovation in the way we do business.
In November 2017, the government unveiled its long-awaited Industrial Strategy aimed at increasing the country’s productivity and earning power through four ‘grand challenges’ – the future of mobility, artificial intelligence and data, clean growth, and meeting the needs of an ageing society.
The future economy will depend on our ability to move people and goods more effectively, and significant changes are already underway in how we travel. HS2 and improvements across the rail sector will provide a vital component in ensuring people have greater access to areas of work where earning power is increasing.
New technologies, such as zero emission vehicles, are also key to improving transport, making it safer, cleaner and better connected. This will not only improve the air we breathe and support the shift to clean growth, but also help us make the most of new economic opportunities.
Driverless cars are gaining widespread media attention, thanks to this technology’s potential to mimic and surpass human sensory and intelligence performance. The strategy could offer the support needed to overcome key limitations in the intelligence of the vision systems required to detect and differentiate objects in real time with greater accuracy than a human.
D-Day for diesel engines is now widely accepted as 2040, meaning there is an enormous amount of work needed to find better sources of energy for our transportation sector and core industries. Our future energy mix should incorporate more renewable energy and, at the same time, support the growth of electrification across all transport sectors.
The role of universities in delivering the strategy
Universities have the potential to play a key civic role in delivering the strategy’s objectives and overcoming the challenges it has identified by bringing together researchers, graduates, business and government. This role has clearly been recognised given the level of funding and support that has been allocated – including an increase in research funding to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.
As part of the government’s £4.7 billion increase in research and development over the next four years, the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund will provide £725 million towards research collaborations with business. A further £300 million has been pledged to Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and PhD programmes aligned to the grand challenges.
In addition, the Strategic Priorities Fund will deliver parts of the Industrial Strategy that would be otherwise missed by the existing funding priorities of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). This will focus on multidisciplinary and inter-disciplinary research programmes, as identified by academics and industry.
Great news for Derby
The city and county could see real benefits from the Industrial Strategy as universities, Local Enterprise Partnerships and businesses come together and address the needs of the region to boost people’s earning power and quality of life.
A key part of the Midlands Engine, Derby has one of the most highly skilled workforces in the UK and a strong heritage in transport innovation and manufacturing to build on, yet on the flip side it faces significant challenges to improve performance in school STEM subjects.
The Industrial Strategy’s £115 million Strength in Places Fund could be instrumental in helping the region build strength in science and innovation, particularly where there is a strong link between industry and universities.
There is also significant investment in STEM, including an additional £406 million for mathematics teaching and better support for programming in school, which will ultimately benefit future industry through upskilling the workforce.
The education sector as a whole can support businesses in achieving the goals set out in the Industrial Strategy. The University of Derby is already working hard to support local industry in addressing the challenges and opportunities in the city. Our Institute for Innovation in Sustainable Engineering (IISE) is collaborating with industrial partners through Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, funding, expertise and technology to unlock innovation potential and solve some of the challenges the region’s SMEs are facing.
Read the other blogs in our four-part Industrial Strategy series: