Here’s our roundup of news from the last month! Stay safe – and don’t forget to get in touch if we can help you with career advice, or just a friendly chat!
UK could get its first waste-to-jet-fuel plant
The UK’s first commercial waste-to-jet-fuel plant is a step closer and is expected to create 130 permanent skilled jobs. North East Lincolnshire Council’s planning committee has granted planning permission to Altalto Immingham, which is a collaboration between Velocys, British Airways and Shell.
The plant would take hundreds of thousands of tonnes of household and commercial solid waste, converting it into clean-burning, sustainable aviation fuel, reducing net greenhouse gases by 70% in comparison to fossil fuels – the same as taking up to 40,000 cars off the road every year.
Subject to additional funding, construction for the facility is targeted to begin in 2022 and fuel production from 2025. Meanwhile, Velocys is calling on the government to coordinate policy between departments to help fund a fleet of world-leading sustainable aviation fuel facilities in the UK.
Vettel and Ferrari to part company
Sebastian Vettel will leave Ferrari at the end of the year after the two parties were unable to reach agreement over his next contract. The driver has insisted that financial considerations played no part in the contract break-down, saying, "What's been happening in these past few months has led many of us to reflect on what are our real priorities in life. One needs to use one's imagination and to adopt a new approach to a situation that has changed. I myself will take the time I need to reflect on what really matters when it comes to my future."
Vettel had signalled as recently as last month that he intended to remain with Ferrari beyond the end of his contract this season, and it is currently not known why his contract talks broke down - though a greatly reduced salary offer and a loss of status in comparison to team mate Charles Leclerc may have played a part.
There is much conjecture about who might replace Vettel, with frontrunners including Carlos Sainz, currently driving for McLaren.
Lotus and Centrica partnership: a game-changer for EV ownership?
Lotus and Centrica are working together to develop a new model for electric vehicle ownership that integrates future mobility and energy. The brands intend to make the car an extension of the home, capable of storing electricity, minimising emissions and generating new income by providing services to the energy market. The partnership will help establish a global charging and energy infrastructure as part of Lotus’ journey to net-zero carbon.
Carl Bayliss, Vice President of Centrica Innovations, said: “We see a future where the customer, car and home are connected, enabling new services beyond charging the car, and new products and experiences replacing the unremarkable standard relationship with energy and the ownership of a car today.”
Manufacturing and Technologies
£4bn facility will be UK’s first car battery gigafactory
Bucking the trend for talk of a diminishing automotive sector, two start-ups have announced plans to invest up to £4bn in what will be the UK’s first large-scale battery facility. It’s a move that could boost the UK’s car industry and provide opportunities for STEM graduates.
Britishvolt and AMTE Power will work together on plans for a plant to make lithium ion batteries, a key component in energy storage products and electric cars. The planned facility could produce batteries with capacity up to 30 gigawatt hours per year, approximately the size of the Tesla-Panasonic Gigafactory in Nevada, USA – creating as many as 4,000 jobs.
With the supply of lithium ion batteries key to the future of the automotive industry, the lack of large-scale battery manufacturing facilities in the UK has been seen as a threat to our place on the global automotive stage. The Faraday Institution has estimated that UK needs 130 GWh of annual capacity by 2040 in order to retain a large automotive sector.
Hope for graduates despite downturn in jobs
With employers planning to cut graduate vacancies by 12% and internships and placements by 40%, 2020 will be a tough year for the “graduate round”. Yet The Guardian reports of signs of hope for a potential “lost generation”: during the slump of 2008/9 many employers reported unfilled STEM vacancies, whilst job boards today reveal demand for graduates in project management, teaching, marketing and software development roles, with interviews still forging ahead via Zoom and other remote networking technologies.
With many UK employers not prescriptive about which particular degree a graduate has, Universities have a part to play in helping graduates to identify their skills and professional interests, as well as the roles available to them, whilst familiarising students with LinkedIn and remote interview technology and techniques.
Changes at Aston Martin
Andy Palmer has stepped down as CEO of Aston Martin. He will formally be replaced by outgoing Mercedes AMG boss Tobias Moers on August 1st. After speculation in The Financial Times at a shift at the top of the company, the luxury marque first released a statement saying that it was “reviewing its management team,” followed later by more specific admission of the changes - news which has already resulted in a surge of 40% in share prices.
Palmer’s place at the top of the company has been the subject of speculation since Lawrence Stroll and a consortium of investors, including Mercedes F1 team Principal Toto Wolff, bought a 25% stake in the company in April. Stroll has stated his support for Aston Martin’s product plan – specifically the launch of the DBX SUV, Valkyrie hypercar and a mid-engined supercar, the Valhalla.
The luxury British marque has suffered torrid times in its history; though loved by supercar romantics it has been rescued from bankruptcy seven times and suffered a £120m loss in the first quarter of 2020 while shared prices fell by 90%. The steep rise in share price that greeted news of Dr Palmer’s exit may seem damning, but he is viewed by many as a successful leader; he initially restored the fortunes of what had been an ailing brand, oversaw its public listing and led the creation of the DBX, opening and equipping a new factory in South Wales to manufacture the model.