New £92 million campus at Warwick by 2015

A £92 million National Automotive Innovation Campus (NAIC) is to be established at Warwick, the University has announced.

NAIC will be part-funded by the Government’s UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF), which supports university capital research projects.

The development is one of several to benefit directly from the addition of a further £200 million of public investment in the fund, tripling the original figure granted by the Chancellor in his March budget.

Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham last week, George Osborne confirmed: “Today we deliver with some of our leading businesses and universities £1 billion of new science investment in the areas where we lead the world.”

As part of the scheme universities must at least double the amount of public funding received through contributions from the private sector or charities.

At Warwick, government funding will account for £15 million of the overall £92 million investment. The remaining £77 million, approximately 84% of the total budget, will be provided by Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) and Tata Motors European Technical Centre (TMETC).

The creation and operation of NAIC will involve the construction of two new buildings – in addition to the already confirmed WMG (Warwick Manufacturing Group) Academy – situated in the undeveloped space adjacent to the International Manufacturing Centre and the International Institute for Product and Service Innovation.

Building work is expected to commence in December 2013 and is scheduled for completion by March 2015, coinciding with the University’s 50th anniversary.

JLR and TMETC, working closely with WMG at the University “envisage a 10 times return on investment through increased value added from exploitation of research outputs in new and improved products, processes and services”, according to Warwick’s Press Office.

The University hopes NAIC will achieve this by creating and developing our “novel technologies to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and to reduce CO2 emission”, building a “stronger supplier base in the UK” and “addressing a shortage of skilled R&D staff in the automotive supply chain.”

However, whilst the Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, believes the “new investment will get [companies and universities] working together to deliver innovation and growth”, a number of individuals have questioned whether the scheme will benefit Warwick students.

In a statement, Vice-Chancellor Professor Nigel Thrift responded to these concerns, commenting: “The National Automotive Innovation Campus will make a significant difference not just to the automotive industry but tens of thousands of lives.

“It will embrace and engage 14+ year old school students, undergraduate and postgraduate students, research fellows, academics, start-up owners, apprentices, industry engineers, supply chain specialists and automotive leaders and help secure jobs both in our local region and nationally”.

Students’ Union President Nick Swain was also quick to provide assurances. Speaking to the Boar, he said the scheme is a “great project which will make Warwick the best automotive hub in the UK, providing it isn’t disruptive and promises to deliver to all students.”

“We hope it will benefit students as a departmental strategy, but we also hope it will benefit everyone as a result.”

Mr Swain went on to promise that the SU would push for the “wider student experience to receive direct investment from this.”

“It is going to be a money maker and the university should reinvest this to benefit students.”

In addition to Warwick, several other universities will benefit from funding, including Birmingham, Surrey, Liverpool and Oxford.

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