Bath Uni’s ‘car-of-the-future’ research centre on track to open next summer despite Covid-19

October 22, 2020

Construction work on the University of Bath’s £70m motor industry global centre of excellence has shifted up a gear with the handover of vital research areas, despite disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The 13,500 sq m, two-storey building on the Bristol & Bath Science Park – which is still on track to open in mid-2021 – will put the West of England at the centre of research into next-generation ultra-low emission vehicles. 

The bespoke research cells at the Institute for Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems (IAAPS) have been completed by main contractor, construction group Rydon.

The cells, pictured, will now be fitted out to handle complete vehicles, individual systems or single components, using the latest measurement equipment.

Equipment to be installed will include bed plates, complex test rigs and dampers. The facility also includes complex pipelines to carry fuel and gas supplies throughout the building as well as a fuel farm external to the facility for which Rydon has built a concrete support structure and access ramp.

East Sussex-headquartered Rydon, which has its South West office at Ham Green, near Bristol, is part of the IAAPs development team which also includes architects Stride Treglown and DKA. Turner & Townsend is project managing with Fulkers Bailey Russell as the cost consultant.

Only IAAPS’ front-of-house facilities, offices and atrium are yet to be completed. They will be handed-over by Rydon in December.

Rydon South West office head Paul Barber, who was responsible for securing the IAAPS contract with the University of Bath, said: “It has been a rewarding experience working on a project that will help meet important environmental targets as well as define highly efficient cars and systems in the future. 

“Despite the disruption of coronavirus, which led to some supply issues, we are working hard as a fully socially distanced team together with our partners to deliver the scheme by the end of 2020 as committed.”

IAAPS operations and IT director Gavin Edwards added: “We are delighted to reach this significant milestone in the delivery of the IAAPS facility, which is enabling the installation of our high-precision research equipment ready for opening in mid-2021.”

IAAPS’ state-of-the-art equipment and space will allow detailed systems-level research to be conducted including whole vehicle analysis under real-world driving conditions.

Industry-backed projects will take into account the ever-changing nature of mobility and travel in the UK, particularly with a transition to low carbon transportation as part of the UK’s 2050 net zero target.

By working with industry partners – not all of them from the automotive sector – the centre is expected to support 1,900 high-value jobs. 

It will also stimulate more than £67m in additional automotive research investment by 2025, creating an additional turnover of £800m for the UK automotive sector. When fully operational the centre itself will create more than 100 jobs on-site.

IAAPS, which builds on more than four decades of advanced propulsion system expertise at the University of Bath, has received funding from both Research England’s UK Research Partnership Investment Fund and the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), through the Local Growth Fund, administered by the West of England Combined Authority.


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