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University of Birmingham expertise is helping to make electric vehicles more efficient

Delegates to the 2020 CBI Annual Conference have the opportunity to discover from researchers at the University of Birmingham how their innovation and sustainability expertise can help British business recover from the pandemic and economic downturn.

Birmingham experts showcased how their global research partnerships can help shape a fairer, more sustainable economic recovery and help the UK prepare for business life outside the European Union after Brexit.

Visitors to the three-day virtual conference heard how the University is revolutionising business through collaborations with industry and business partners in Britain and beyond providing solutions to pressing questions such as:

Consumers are being encouraged to swap their petrol and diesel vehicles to electric versions, but once the capacity of lithium-ion batteries falls below 80% they become no good for electric vehicles. Most local authorities have little expertise in recycling such batteries, which have many possible second-life applications.

Understanding and looking at the wider social, ethical and political implications of data-driven applications in society as AI becomes part of everyday business life. For example, net-zero carbon is a challenge that needs data on where carbon emissions are coming from and how to reduce them - creating new data collection, processing, analysis, verification and reporting challenges.

Heat is the largest single source of UK carbon emissions. A new Heat Commission convened by the CBI and University of Birmingham - with leading industry figures – is calling for a National Delivery Body to lead development and implementation of a national heat decarbonisation strategy.

The University helped to develop the first hydrogen powered train to run on the UK mainline – signalling a big step forward towards the UK’s net zero targets. Unlike diesel trains, hydrogen-powered trains do not emit harmful gases, instead using hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, water and heat.

Quantum sensors allow us to take a different look at data-driven processes and could help us to safely control the world’s air space, as well as enabling safe autonomous driving in the future.

Many employees working from home feel their organisations have been supportive during lockdown, but parents identified negative aspects including blurred work/home boundaries and too many distractions. This suggests homeworking needs careful management with appropriate support/tools, as well as some face-to-face interaction, which is important for the mental health of employees.

Visitors to the University’s ‘virtual stand’ had the opportunity to discover how Birmingham is offering answers to all these questions and much more – working with business to improve the UK’s economic resilience by developing skills and knowledge provision for a post-COVID recovery in industry; innovating on sustainable products and services; and providing Business Engagement expertise.

Professor Tim Softley, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Transfer, said: “The coronavirus crisis has caused pain for so many people and disruption across so many areas of life. We must consider what UK can take and learn from the past months and what we want to be as we move forwards.

“This year’s CBI’s conference theme of ‘build back better’, resonates with the University of Birmingham’s role as a civic institution. Innovation is now more important than ever: innovations across sectors and disciplines, innovations that are also sustainable and resilient.

“With Brexit approaching, diversification in the economy will make the UK more resilient in the longer term. Businesses need to accelerate adoption of new technologies and practices – working with ‘thinkers’ and ‘doers’ to rapidly translate ideas into goods and services and our University is already partnering with many businesses to achieve this.”

This is emphasised by Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir David Eastwood’s comments on the University’s vision: “As a global university with strong regional roots, we can see that economic recovery and progress can come from providing opportunities for all. We must work with business to create new ways of doing things and develop the right skills for the workforces of today and tomorrow - be that digital leadership, data science and the law, or an understanding of how to support the wider use of electric vehicles.

“UK plc needs to ensure that the recovery is in line with the direction of travel that business is already on. Demand-led manufacturing, digital innovation, making the most of AI, and more blue-sky developments such as quantum technologies, need to be supported and developed. All of these changes need to be accomplished in line with the pressures for environmental sustainability, a key element of the University of Birmingham’s research and education agenda.”

  • For more information or interviews , please contact Tony Moran, International Communications Manager, University of Birmingham on +44 (0) 121 414 8254 or +44 (0)782 783 2312. For out-of-hours enquiries, please call +44 (0) 7789 921 165. 
  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries. Founded in 1900, the University of Birmingham was England’s first civic university, where students from all religions and backgrounds were accepted on an equal basis.