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Government pledges almost £60 million to autonomous car projects

Autonomous Jaguar XF

The development of connected and autonomous vehicles in the UK has received Government funding of almost £60 million as part of a new joint venture with automotive businesses.

A £26.4m investment, match-funded by industry to total £52.8 million, will help develop the next generation of driverless and low-carbon vehicles, with flagship projects led by Ford, GKN and Jaguar Land Rover.

Business and Energy Secretary, Greg Clark, also announced a sector deal including up to £32m of new joint funding for an industry-led supply chain competitiveness programme to help the UK remain internationally competitive.

The Government said that the deal secures joint investment and long-term commitments between government and industry in areas including the design and development of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV), the research and development of battery technology and accelerating the manufacture of ultra-low and zero emission vehicles.

But the sums have already been down-played by experts, Professor David Bailey, a car industry expert at Aston University, telling the Telegraph newspaper: “The sums of money on offer are not game-changers – whether in terms of supply chain support, or on broader technology support.”

Announcing the funding commitment yesterday (Wednesday, January 10) the Business Secretary said: “In the next 10 years, the sector will see more change than in the previous hundred. From the engines that power our cars, to the way we control them and our attitudes to owning them, technology is changing what the industry looks like and where money can be made.

“The automotive sector will shape our response to the Grand Challenges articulated in our Industrial Strategy, such as Clean Growth and the Future of Mobility – transformations which will forever change how people live, work and travel.

“As ever, partnership will be pivotal. As a result of the Sector Deal, both government and industry will invest about a quarter of a billion pounds to develop and manufacture electric vehicles, create a world-leading testing environment for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles and invest in a new industry-led programme to raise the competiveness of UK suppliers to match the best in Europe.

“As we open the automotive sector’s next chapter, we will continue to work with industry to make sure the technologies of tomorrow are developed, tested and manufactured right here in the UK.”

However, while Mr Bailey told The Telegraph that the Government’s funding pledge was a welcome step towards cleaner transport, he suggested that it would make a small dent in an industry now attracting funding across the globe. He said: “Contrast the modest sums on offer here with the multi-billion dollar support for autonomous car technology alone that President Barack Obama put in place in the US a few years ago.”

The Government argued that the deal would bring together a number of long-term joint commitments between government and industry.

Among the other projects gaining government support is a £500m investment in the Advanced Propulsion Centre over 10 years to 2023 to research, develop and industrialise new low-carbon automotive technologies in the UK, with industry providing £500m match funding for collaborative R&D projects.

Government is also investing up to £225m from 2023 to 2026 to support R&D in the sector, with industry providing equivalent match funding and through the Faraday Battery Challenge, is investing £246m to make the UK “a world leader in the design, development and manufacture of batteries for the electrification of vehicles”.

Commenting on the lastest investment plans, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “The deal strengthens our long-standing partnership with government, with a boost to supply chain competitiveness and investment, matched by industry, to keep the UK at the forefront of electric, connected and autonomous vehicles.

“In its implementation, the deal must help the industry build on our success and seize the opportunities presented by such technological innovations. Given current uncertainties, it must also be complemented by ongoing efforts to maintain the right conditions for growth.”

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