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Industry news roundup - June 2018

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At the end of each month on our website we’ll feature a roundup of the news that’s grabbed our attention from across our industry. We might not cover all of our sectors every month, but watch this space!

Automotive

£22m government fund for Faraday Battery Challenge.

Southampton company Ilika is spearheading a pioneering project to develop safer, cheaper high capacity electric car batteries. The joint initiative involves 11 other companies, each working to develop the production of solid-state cells and ultra-fast charging technology here in the UK.

The government’s continued backing into research for non-combustible propulsion has seen it award £22m of grants to participating researchers and automotive brands in order to accelerate the development of the technology. Participants in the “Faraday Battery Challenge” include several universities, Jaguar Land Rover, Aston Martin Lagonda, McLaren Automotive and Williams Advanced Engineering.

Motorsport

Honda and Red Bull: it’s on!

Honda enters another exciting phase as it agrees a two-year engine deal with Red Bull. The two companies have announced that they will work together from next season, as Red Bull’s 12-season power unit deal with Renault winds down.

From 2019 Honda will supply two teams – Red Bull and current partners Toro Rosso – with their factory in Milton Keynes providing the extra resource required for them to supply another racing team. The company believes that its enhanced presence in future racing will provide greater opportunity to learn from data, and therefore drive greater success.

The new partnership between Honda and Red Bull will last until the end of the current regulations. F1 hopes that the new regulations, which will be in force for the 2021 season, will encourage new players to join the competition.

Manufacturing & Technologies

It’s the World Cup – but not as we know it.

Right now, the FIFA World Cup is front of mind for billions of people, with a good many England fans experiencing a new and welcome sense of optimism. But a considerable distance away from the main event in Russia, a different World Cup is taking place: the RoboCup tournament, in which teams of humanoid robots compete to win football matches.

Fanciful though it may seem, the annual tournament - taking place this year in Montreal, Canada - has a very real purpose: to help advance the field of robotics and AI, for a variety of purposes.  

Public competition drives continuous improvement. But despite the broad implications the event has as a testing ground for robotics, the stated aim of the tournament’s organisers is rather more specific: by 2050, to produce a team of footy-bots that can beat a human world-cup winning team at the beautiful game.

Could it happen?

Future Tech

Norway’s green transportation dream takes flight.

Norway has plans to launch a commercial flight service using battery-powered planes within seven years, and to electrify its entire local air transport by 2040. This month that lofty ideal grew wings as the country witnessed its first electric-powered flight, in a plane built by Slovenian firm Pipistrel.

And if we needed more demonstration of Norway’s strength of conviction, the flight was piloted by the country’s own transport minister, Ketil Solvik-Olsen.

Though brief, the flight was successful and took place in Oslo airport. Norway’s geography – with its fjords and many remote islands - is ideal for electricity-powered short-distance local flights, which offer a cheaper and greener alternative to traditional flight.

The barriers to widespread adoption of this technology predominantly lie in the weight and limited range of existing cells, but rapid development and significant investment means battery-powered planes will doubtless soar, and soon

Exec & Leaders

Hyperloop could unlock the UK’s wealth and talent centres if leaders buy in.

Hyperloop is a public transport system that, if it becomes a reality, will see commuters transported in pods fired through low-pressure tubes at speeds of up to 600mph. Essentially a magnetic levitation train in a vacuum system, it is the brainchild of Elon Musk, and an open-source and collaborative enterprise. Sir Richard Branson has already declared an interest, with Virgin Hyperloop One reaching a speed of 240mph in tests in Nevada.  

Dan Lewis, the IOD’s senior adviser on infrastructure policy, will recommend that Hyperloop should become key to the infrastructure of Northern England in an imminent report, “How Do We Make Britain the Best Connected Country in the World?”

Though it seems far-fetched, Hyperloop could revolutionise the UK by making almost any city accessible from almost any other, rebalancing the distribution of wealth and opportunity that has long afflicted us.

This is a story we will be following closely, but what is clear about this open-source programme is that the more it can attract investment, vision and goodwill from global leaders and angel investors – especially those in the transport and technology sectors – the more likely it is to succeed.

Graduates

Graduate earnings impacted by subject, university and background, says IFS.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has released figures revealing that university, family background and subject choice have a significant impact on English students’ earnings five years after they graduate.  Creative arts, social care and media graduates tend to earn the least, while medicine, economics and maths graduates earn the most, with physics and engineering also near the top of the scale.

However, although subjects such as computing and business do not add as much onto salaries as those subjects at the top of the list, they do increase the chance for students with lower A-level grades to earn better salaries.