A £1.2 million grant from public sector tech angels Innovate UK has left University College Birmingham leading a West Midlands partnership, aimed at delivering new skills in battery manufacturing and innovation.
Energised with the sum stumped up by the eight-year Faraday Battery Challenge, the project – labouring under the moniker DEBUT-WM – or the even worse Digital Enhanced Battery Ubiquitous Training-West Midlands – yokes experts from arguably Britain’s most automotive-friendly universities, local government and industry to deliver pioneering level 2 and level 3 training.
University College Birmingham, WMG at the University of Warwick, Cranfield University and commercial firm RAVMAC will jointly deliver it, supported by partners including Jaguar Land Rover. DEBUT-WM runs for 18 months, starting next month.
The project leader Rosa Wells heads University College Birmingham’s School of Engineering, Digital & Sustainable Construction.
She said: “DEBUT-WM is vital in supporting our region, as well as contributing towards wider Net Zero ambitions. As a university that delivering education from apprentice to postgraduate level, we are in a unique position to lead this project, providing a sustainable training model that meets the needs of learners, employers, wider industry and our region”
The programme will offer an ambitious blend of traditional physical training alongside advanced immersive digital technologies such as augmented, virtual and mixed reality.
Learners will be taught skills across battery manufacturing, repairing, recycling and reusing that will support them in roles such as technicians, production, maintenance, engineering and quality assurance.
RAVMAC are Alvechurch-based advisors on digital-enhanced manufacturing, including for vehicle and transport engineering. Technical director Mark McNally observed: “DEBUT-WM builds on established leading regional technical expertise and capabilities.
“Our digital learning environments will be core to the design of the training programme, enabling learners to navigate the whole battery manufacturing process.”
As part of DEBUT-WM, the partners will target industry organisations, functions and individuals directly involved in fostering a workforce’s expertise in relation to batteries.
The programme will use kit and knowledge developed by Warwick Uni’s WMG unit, already used in cutting-edge battery research, in manufacturing and in wider electrification. These dovetail into broader accreditations provided by the National Electrification Skills Framework, an initiative spearheaded by WMG. Learners will thus acquire marketable, recognised skills in electrification systems.
WMG’s dean Professor Robin Clark said: “Up to 91% of all automotive manufacturing roles require some electrification training. The electrification revolution is expanding at pace to sectors such as rail and aerospace.
“With up to 80% of Britain’s workforce for 2035 already in work, the filling of electrification roles will depend on us delivering higher level skills through training programmes such as DEBUT-WM.”
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street chipped in: “This is a project with tremendous potential – supporting our region’s priorities whilst ensuring local people have the skills they need to succeed and secure high quality job opportunities in the months and years ahead. Together, we can offer the chance for residents to up-skill in preparation for the jobs and economy of the future.”
DEBUT-WM has established the Battery Training Advisory Group (BTAG) to input into the ongoing development, delivery and future of the programme.
Other partners include the West Midlands Combined Authority, Microsoft, Delta Cosworth, Manufacturing Technology Centre, and the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Institute of Technology.