Faraday Battery Challenge boosts UK battery industry with support initiatives worth £3.2m

Posted on 7 Sep 2023 by The Manufacturer

Coventry University, University College Birmingham and Newcastle University share in funding to support regional battery sectors, workforce development and UK’s transition to electrification.

The Faraday Battery Challenge (FBC) has appointed three leading universities to share £3.2m in funding and support the UK’s regional battery sectors in identifying and addressing their skills needs to ensure the UK elevates its transition to electrification and remains a global industry leader.

Unlocking the Potential of Electrification Skills

The FBC, delivered by Innovate UK as part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), has awarded £700,000 to Coventry University to lead a consortium that will deliver the National Electrifications Skills Forum and Framework (NESFF). University College Birmingham and Newcastle University have been appointed to share £2.5m to deliver the Battery Workforce Training Initiative in their respective regions.

Tony Harper, Challenge Director for the Faraday Battery Challenge, said: “As the UK ramps up its electrification transition the Faraday Battery Challenge recognised there are skills challenges needing to be addressed to meet the UK’s net zero commitments.

“With the right partners, these new support initiatives will unlock and accelerate the skills development of the national and regional workforces and ensure the UK keeps its edge as new technologies skills gaps are identified.”

Empowering the Battery Workforce

The Battery Workforce Training Initiative is designed to support the UK’s growing regional battery industries and help awarded partners deliver innovative vocational and technical training that bolsters local workforces with enhanced skills, diversity and qualifications.

With £1.2m in funding, starting from October, University College Birmingham will lead a regional partnership that will deliver a training programme aimed at supporting the local workforce with skills development. The ‘Digital Enhanced Battery Ubiquitous Training-West Midlands’ (DEBUT-WM) project will bring together academic, industry and government experts to deliver the programme via a blend of traditional physical training alongside advanced immersive digital technologies such as augmented, virtual and mixed reality.

Rosa Wells, Executive Dean of the School of Engineering, Digital and Sustainable Construction at University College Birmingham and Project Lead, added: “This project is vital in supporting our region as well as contributing towards the wider net zero ambitions. As a university, 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.”

Newcastle University will apply its £1.3m funding to support its ‘National Battery Training and Skills Academy’. The Academy will support and engage those in the North-east with education and skills initiatives, retraining schemes and battery degree apprenticeships.

Professor Colin Herron from Newcastle University’s School of Engineering said: “The North-east hosts the UK’s only lithium-ion battery plant and with the real possibility of a second battery company opening in the future, there is a clear need for expanded workforce training capacity and capability. What is unique about our programme is that battery awareness will be brought to the general public and many thousands of school children by bringing the training capabilities of New College Durham, the public sector and Newcastle University together.”

A Unified Vision for Electrification Skills

In collaboration with Enginuity, Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) and the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (UKBIC), the University of Coventry will lead the NESFF consortium. The NESFF’s vision is to ensure that the national workforce has the necessary skills and development to effectively deploy electrification technologies and help the country meet its net zero commitments. Identifying these skills needs and a framework for delivery, as well as encouraging greater workforce inclusion and diversity, are priorities for the independent consortium.

The consortium will work closely with the Innovate UK Workforce Foresighting Hub and its members, and other local and national bodies, to ensure that future skills development will meet the needs of rapidly emerging net-zero technologies and help position the UK as a global electrification leader.

Electric Revolution Skills Hub (ERS Hub) – A Co-ordinated Effort

Deepak Farmah, Head of Innovation at Coventry University (Commercial Director, ERS Hub), said: “The electrification market is growing rapidly, and we are excited to take the lead in defining the necessary skills for its present and future needs. Our approach of collaborating with national partners and stakeholders remains essential to ensure that the results are inclusive and impactful, benefiting the entire ecosystem by gathering new and existing research into a single dynamic source.”

Funded by the UKRI’s Driving Electric Revolution Challenge, and developed by Coventry University, the Electric Revolution Skills Hub (ERS Hub) is an online platform at the nexus of learners, skills providers, and employers in electrification, leveraging existing resources and expertise to create a unified approach to electrification skills development. It fosters collaboration, inclusivity, and diversity within the electrification skills ecosystem, ensuring it is robust and interconnected. The ERS Hub serves as a dynamic source of research and expertise, consolidating efforts towards an electrified future.

The ERS Hub, in synergy with the Battery Workforce Training Initiative and the NESFF, forms a comprehensive framework for electrification skills development. It bridges gaps, fosters collaboration, and promotes diversity within the electrification workforce. By gathering and consolidating research, the ERS Hub ensures that the skills ecosystem remains adaptable and responsive to the evolving electrification landscape, thereby enhancing the overall impact of these initiatives.

These initiatives align seamlessly with the broader regional skills strategy, creating a comprehensive framework that ensures the UK’s workforce is ready to embrace the electrified future.

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