Here’s our roundup of news from across our markets over the last month. Stay safe.
James Dyson Awards: the best of young innovation
The annual James Dyson Award is something we always look forward to, showcasing as it does an astonishing degree of innovation and talent. Open to students and recent graduates in relevant disciplines, the award supports and inspires budding design engineers to submit ideas that solve a problem, with over £70,000 of prize money at stake in various categories. As ever, we’re hugely impressed with the entries. They’re all ingenious, but a few examples are:
The Tyre Collective – a firm aiming to address the problem of tyre dust - the second largest source of microplastic pollutant - by catching it directly at source. On average, cars produce over 2 grams of tyre dust per day; The Tyre Collective aims to help fleet operators and manufacturers achieve zero-emission goals, using electrostatics and wheel airflow to capture tyre particles that can be processed and reused in a variety of applications. With half a million tonnes of tyre wear produced annually across Europe, tyres are “the stealthy source of microplastic pollution we never thought about”.
A related problem is addressed by OFlow, which incorporates biofilter and bioreactor technologies to remove the smaller microplastics that normally escape water treatment plants. OFlow assimilates into existing water treatment processes, making it easier for industry to address the problem of 13 million tonnes of microplastic leaking into the ocean annually, much of which is too small to be captured at treatment.
And while we’re in the water, as it were, we were hugely impressed with Swimsight, the head-mounted computer vision system that enables visually impaired people to swim independently, calculating a user’s position in a swimming lane and feeding it back to them user via an intuitive haptic navigation system.
Amazing stuff all round and enough to suggest that at a challenging period in human history, a lot of the good work is being done by the engineering and technology sector!
Lewis Hamilton’s got a new racing team - just not in F1!
Lewis Hamilton has founded his own racing team, X44, in the ground-breaking new electric off-road racing series, Extreme E.
X44 will enter Season 1 of the Extreme E Championship, with its first X Prix race scheduled for early 2021. Though not involved in the day to day running of the team, Hamilton will apply lessons from his own career to help ensure his team are dedicated and competitive.
Extreme E will see competitors race electric vehicles in arctic, desert, rainforest, glacier, and coastal locations which are damaged or under threat of climate change from issues including melting ice caps, deforestation, desertification and rising sea levels.
Hamilton describes the new racing series as “an exciting new sustainability initiative” that appeals to him because of its environmental focus. He added, “every single one of us has the power to make a difference, and it means so much to me that I can use my love of racing, together with my love for our planet, to have a positive impact.”
Volta Trucks achieves notable “first” with model launch.
Start-up EV manufacturer Volta Trucks has launched the Volta Zero: the first purpose-built full electric large commercial vehicle designed specifically for inner city freight and parcel distribution. Volta’s CEO Rob Fowler believes the sixteen-tonne vehicle will help change the face of road transport at a time when large commercial vehicles “dangerously impose themselves on our streets and dominate their surroundings”.
In London, large trucks account for only 4% of road miles but 58% of cyclist fatalities and 23% of pedestrian deaths. By ditching a traditional combustion engine, Volta Zero’s designers have gained vital cockpit space and have been able to re-think how a truck is designed, resulting in greatly improved driver vision, further augmented by a variety of safety technologies.
With production likely to be in the UK, Volta Trucks aims to have built around 500 customer-specification vehicles by the end of 2022.
Manufacturing and Technologies
£147 million scheme to support UK Manufacturing productivity
A new government and industry-backed scheme aims to support businesses whose creative technology boosts the UK’s manufacturing capability. Through the Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge, the government will invest £147 million – backed by further funding from industry – to support businesses implement new tech to boost their manufacturing productivity, helping them reach new customers, create thousands of new highly skilled jobs, slash carbon emissions and reduce prices for consumers.
The scheme was announced at this year’s London Tech Week – an annual event celebrating innovation, talent and development of the tech sector.
Some good news for the graduate job market
There’s no question that the graduate job market is tough, with competition for graduate jobs at a ten-year high, and July seeing an average of 93 applications per vacancy according to job search engine Adzuna and careers website Bright Network.
But Institute of Student Employers (ISE) CEO Stephen Isherwood says the picture varies according to the sector, with many industries having had time to adjust intake to fit in with new rules about social distancing, rather than abandoning graduate schemes completely.
Many employers are honouring pre-Covid era job offers to graduates apart from those in industries seriously impacted by the pandemic (such as non-food retail and travel). Meanwhile, graduate hirers who don’t continue to ensure their pipeline of talent is strong will face serious skills shortages when the upturn comes; legal firms in particular have continued to hire, with the industry as a whole seeing a relatively small 4% drop in graduate recruitment.
Alison Jones celebrated by Autocar and SMMT.
Alison Jones, UK managing Director and Senior Vice-President of the PSA Group, has won Autocar’s Great Women in the British car industry 2020 initiative, which is held in partnership with the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Outstanding individuals across various categories (including Marketing, Sales, Design and Manufacturing) have celebrated their achievements at a virtual live event.
Jones has spent most of her 20+ years in the industry at the Volkswagen Group, where she started in customer services before becoming finance director in 2004. She rose to the position of managing director of VW Passenger Cars and in 2019 was appointed UK managing director and senior vice-president of the PSA Group, overseeing Peugeot, Citroen and DS in the UK.