Up to £25 million in research and development funding is available to aid projects developing low carbon automotive technologies and increased supply chain capacity. The latest grant funding competition, delivered in partnership between the Advanced Propulsion Centre UK (the APC), the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK, is open for registration until noon on Wednesday 14 September 2016 with applications to be submitted before noon on Wednesday 21 September.

The new competition, APC6: Accelerating the Drive to Low Carbon Propulsion, is seeking applications from consortia proposing collaborative research and development projects with total costs of between £5m and £40m, lasting between 18 and 42 months. The aim is to take prototype low-carbon automotive technologies towards volume production. Technologies can be for either on-road or off-road vehicles but must be for on-vehicle application. Consortia must comprise at least one vehicle manufacturer and/or a tier 1 supplier, and at least one SME. There is particular encouragement for projects developing disruptive technologies with a practicable route to market. 

Projects eligible for funding should be in one or more of the following technology areas:

  • Internal combustion engines 
  • Lightweight vehicle and powertrain structures
  • Electric machines and power electronics
  • Energy storage and energy management
  • Alternative propulsion systems.

Proposals should develop technology or capability to:

  • Deliver significant reductions in vehicle CO2 or other emissions impacting air quality compared to best-in-class technologies
  • Align with Automotive Council Technology Group roadmaps 
  • Develop the UK’s supply chain in the field of low carbon vehicle propulsion technology or lightweight vehicle structures.

The 8-page competition brief for APC6 summarises the criteria to be demonstrated by applicants through both the application process and the project's life. Greater detail is provided in the competition guidance. Projects should have the ability to deliver significant technological benefits along with UK supply chain capabilities and a commercialisation strategy: "Consortia should demonstrate the potential to build on the UK’s existing capabilities, targeting global competitive advantage and economic benefit for the UK. Applications must illustrate how successful delivery of the project will benefit all consortium partners." 

The criteria and aims of APC6 strongly align with those of the Economy and Industrial Strategy Committee set up by new Prime Minister Theresa May to look at addressing long-term productivity growth, encouraging innovation and focusing on industries and technologies that could give the UK a competitive advantage. While there is inevitably uncertainty following the EU referendum vote, the motor industry has seen strong growth in recent years. Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show that revenues grew by 7.3% to £71bn in 2015. However, longer term investment decisions by the motor industry in the UK will be dependent on the outcome of negotiations, in particular with the EU. There are many possible permutations for the UK going forward – the referendum was consultative and did not give a mandate for any particular form of a Brexit. What is clear is that the Government is determined to promote innovation and industry. 

Bond Dickinson has expertise in many areas of the automotive sector, ranging from construction and engineering disputes to advertising and marketing advice. Our experience includes advising a global car manufacturer in a review of environmental management issues across UK facilities, with an enhancement programme that is now being replicated by the business on a Europe-wide basis.

  • The competition brief can be found here.
  • The competition guidance is here.

David Payne