Major project – supported by Local Growth Fund investment – set to open in spring 2019
Building work has started on a new facility, which – according to the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) – will ensure the county ‘remains at the forefront’ of global developments in driverless vehicle technology.
It will enable 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 market.
The four new workspaces will allow leading companies to undertake testing and development of driverless cars.
Through backing from OxLEP, Culham Science Centre has been able to demonstrate that they are a key part of the UK testing ecosystem for driverless cars, recognised by the UK Centre for Connected and Autonomous vehicles (CCAV).
With support from OxLEP and CCAV, Culham Science Centre aims to become globally-recognised as a ‘test facility’ – as well as exploring key areas relating to autonomous vehicle technology development, including; the practicalities of using driverless cars, identifying ‘smart infrastructure’ which could accelerate real-world implementation and understanding how the public will react to driverless cars.
Staff at the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s Remote Applications in Challenging Environments (RACE) centre are working with partners at Meridian Mobility and Millbrook Proving Ground to ensure that the new facilities will be open – and welcoming new users – in spring next year.
OxLEP secured £2m of funding towards the project via the government’s Local Growth Fund – this, from an overall Local Growth Fund 3 allocation of £24.16m for Oxfordshire, announced in early-2017.
OxLEP is one of 37 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in England playing a key role in driving forward economic growth and – by 2021 – it’s expected that central Government will have invested over £12bn into the UK economy via the Local Growth Fund.
Local Growth Fund investment aims to allow LEPs to use their local knowledge to promote growth in their individual regions.
Analysis has shown that for every £1 of Local Growth Fund invested, £4.81 in benefits could be generated.
Since it was launched in 2011, OxLEP – with its partners – has secured over £600m-worth of government funding for Oxfordshire, with around 43,000 new jobs created in the county between 2011/2012 and 2015/2016.
In total, OxLEP currently oversees a £2.2bn growth programme for the county.
Nigel Tipple – OxLEP Chief Executive – said: “CCAV is such a globally-significant project and will ensure Oxfordshire remains at the forefront of international developments in driverless vehicle technology.
“We are delighted to have secured such a significant Local Growth Fund allocation for this project and we are sure it can be real asset to Culham Science Centre’s own future growth plans.”
Connected and autonomous vehicles is one of four transformative technologies earmarked in the Oxfordshire Transformative Technology Alliance's science and innovation audit.
Through these technologies, the audit suggests Oxfordshire could play a major global role in driving forward the national economy – which, if fully-utilised, could be worth in the region of £180billion to the UK by 2030, around six per cent of the global economy in these technologies.
Through Local Growth Fund investments, OxLEP – working with its partners – aims to support the development of skills, meeting the needs of local employers, as well as building on Oxfordshire’s strengths in research and development.
It’s also hoped that Local Growth Fund investments can support the opening-up of new commercial development opportunities.
Rob Buckingham – Director of the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s RACE centre at Culham – added: “The existing facilities we have at Culham have already attracted globally-leading companies such as Oxbotica and aiPod.
“The backing OxLEP have given us means that we can now set about converting our vision of a thriving cluster of CAV companies in-and-around our site into economic activity and local jobs.”