Significant investment secured by the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) is supporting a major Culham Science Centre project – that is already hastening moves towards connected and autonomous vehicle technology being adopted into everyday lives – to move a step closer to reality.
The Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (or CAV) Pit Lane has benefitted from major funding obtained by OxLEP, enhancing Oxfordshire’s reputation as one of leading locations in the world overseeing the development of CAV technologies.
Across two parts of an overall project, OxLEP secured £2.3million-worth of investment from the Government’s Local Growth Fund, with a further £3.5million leveraged via Culham Science Centre and the wider private sector.
The facility – named 'Pit Lane' due to its resemblance of a formula one garage – enables a growing range of organisations to come together at one location to develop and test technologies that are necessary if driverless vehicles are to safely enter the car market.
In the recently-finalised second phase of the project – which has benefitted specifically from £0.5million of the overall funding secured by OxLEP – investment will allow the CAV Pit Lane to further improve experiences of those taking part in trials.
New introductions to the site, brought about by the funding, include; adding connected – or smart – traffic lights on a T-junction between the pit lane and where it joins Culham’s main site road network, as well as the installation of programmable connected road signs.
In addition, second-phase funding has also seen a pedestrian dummy on a ‘motorised skateboard’ purchased to increase safety testing operations, plus the capabilities of being able to upgrade connectivity across the site from 4G to 5G.
Phase one of the project – which was completed in 2019 – saw the development of four, purpose-built workspaces each approximately 220m2 in size.
This stage of the project benefitted from £1.8million-worth of Local Growth Fund investment.
The workspaces across the CAV Pit Lane provide companies with the opportunity to work on two vehicles in a workspace, with office accommodation above allowing technicians to analyse huge quantities of data generated from the cars.
The overall project reflects Oxfordshire’s world-leading position in the development of technologies supporting connected and autonomous vehicles and OxLEP says that the investment is also significant in the wider context of Oxfordshire’s innovation ecosystem, acknowledged as one of the world’s leading science and technology regions.
Nigel Tipple – Chief Executive of OxLEP – said: “The investment that we have managed to secure for this project is significant in a number of ways.
“Not only will it support Culham Science Centre and associated partners’ ambitions to really spearhead the global push for adopting reliable, efficient and game-changing connected and autonomous vehicle technologies, but it also helps to place a further ‘flag in the ground’ when it comes to attracting the world’s best talent in science and innovation to Oxfordshire.
“The project itself is further evidence that our world-leading innovation ecosystem is genuinely able to tackle and find solutions to the world’s major challenges, as well as also demonstrating that continued investment into Oxfordshire’s science and technology-led sectors is vitally-important to all concerned.”
“This transformative technology truly has the potential to change the way we all live and move around our transport systems.”
For Culham Science Centre, the investment is set to have a direct effect on being able to attract more companies to the site to use the test facilities.
Since its creation in 2011, OxLEP – alongside a variety of partners – have secured around £1 billion-worth of investment into Oxfordshire, each in its own way supporting the county’s business community's ambitions and wider communities.
In total – OxLEP oversees a £3.3bn growth programme for Oxfordshire.