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Industry news roundup - January 2020

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Welcome to our roundup of the news that's grabbed our attention from across our specialist industries over the last month!

Automotive

UK electric van maker Arrival secures “unicorn” investment

Arrival has secured an £85m investment from South Korean automotive firms Kia and Hyundai, helping it to achieve a feat rare in British manufacturing - becoming a unicorn business (a start-up valued at over $1bn).

Founded in 2015 by Russian telecoms entrepreneur Denis Sverdlov, the company has rapidly expanded its workforce, with a factory in Banbury and plans to build microfactories near markets such as New York and Los Angeles.

Arrival’s first product is a battery-powered electric van targeted at urban delivery where relatively short-range deployments can be adequately supported by existing technology. Furthermore, the company is experimenting with modular design allowing robots to assemble the vans in a single location, reducing the typical cost of designing and building a new vehicle platform from about £1nb to £100m.

Motorsport

French GP says Paul Ricard overtaking tweaks would take four days

Formula 1 French Grand Prix organisers say that proposed changes to the Paul Ricard track, which will favour overtaking, could be made in four days once approved by the FIA. The event’s managing Director Eric Boullier hopes the planned changes could be made in time for this year’s Grand Prix in late June.

The changes would involve the first tight sequence of corners to be opened up, delivering a bigger first breaking point at the Sainte-Baume area of the circuit which, according to Boullier, “would make two big straights…and two overtaking zones.”

Manufacturing & Tech

New net zero taskforce launched to guide transformation of UK infrastructure

A new Net Zero Taskforce has been formed to advise on how UK infrastructure can be re-designed to form the backbone of the UK's net zero future. The taskforce will include experts from the Association for Consultancy and Engineering and the Environmental Industries Commission, and will be chaired by Sarah Prichard from ACE member BuroHappold.

The first action of the taskforce will be to compile two reports to be launched at November’s UN Climate Summit in Glasgow, which will explore the role member companies can play to support the UK’s transition to a net zero economy, and help small and medium companies to adapt to this new environment.  

The UK government has committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. The infrastructure industry is responsible for 16% of the UK’s carbon emissions, with an influence over a further 37%.

Future Tech

Offshore wind is slated to play a central role in the EU's decarbonisation plans

Danish wind manufacturer MHI Vestas has installed a prototype of its V174 offshore wind turbine at the Østerild Test Field in Denmark after the turbine’s market launch last winter. With 85-metre blades and a tip height of 197 metres, one turbine could provide enough power for 9,000 UK households.

The turbine will be put through its paces ahead of the firm’s first commercial projects, with planned installations in German offshore wind projects in 2022.

Offshore wind is expected to become the EU’s single largest power source by 2027, driven by a target to generate 32 per cent of power renewably by 2030. The EC expects wind to meet 50% of Europe’s energy needs by 2050.

Graduate

Debt-ridden graduates short-changed by employers

Over a quarter of 18-24 year olds can’t clear credit card bills because they are owed expenses by their employer. As wage growth lags behind inflation in the UK, student debt has reached a historical high, with home purchase out of the question for many. But now many graduate employees face another challenge.

Fintech software company Expend has carried out research revealing that over 25% of 18-24 year-olds can’t clear their credit card bills because they are owed expenses by their employers. With an average graduate debt of £50,000 and a typical starting salary of £19,000 to £22,000, the results of such payments slipping through the cracks can be crippling for graduate employees.

Meanwhile, the rise of increasingly complex and varying working hours, flexible working and zero hours contracts means one in twelve employees will miss out on holiday pay owed to them, albeit normally through honest oversights in workforce management.

Leaders & Exec

Sainsbury's promises to be net zero by 2040

Sainsbury’s CEO Mike Coupe has pledged to put environmental impact at the forefront of “every decision we make”, becoming a net zero emissions operation by 2040, a decade ahead of the UK government’s national target.

As such it will switch to zero emission logistics and delivery vehicles, reduce its use of plastic packaging, curb food waste and install green refrigeration technology, all backed by £1bn of investment into low carbon technologies and operations.

The supermarket also intends to be water neutral by the same time, installing rainwater harvesting systems in stores and re-using water from carwashes and ice from fish counters.