The ‘Midlands Engine’ is a critical part of the UK’s modern industrial strategy, aimed at boosting productivity and earning power. It’s significant. To date, the advanced manufacturing sector has contributed £168billion to the UK economy, received £74.5million of investment in high value manufacturing projects and will receive 80 billion Euro worth of funding from 2014-2020.

High value ‘catapult’ Research and Development (R&D) centres are located in Scotland, the North of England, the Midlands and the South. At the heart of the Midlands engine is Warwick Manufacturing Group: a joint venture between industry and academia, working together to innovate and educate. From its origins in the automotive and aerospace sectors, the groups’ work has expanded to cover construction, defence, pharmaceutical and telecommunications sectors, and most recently, digital technologies, healthcare, finance and rail.

Two Decades of Collaborative Design

ADP’s relationship with the University of Warwick started in 2002, with commissions across both the academic and WMG campuses. More recently, the practice has been involved in three influential schemes with a common theme: to create collaborative research spaces which enable innovation in manufacturing.

  • The International Automotive Research Centre
  • The Materials Engineering Centre
  • Advanced Materials Manufacturing Centre

The International Automotive Research Centre (IARC) was Warwick Manufacturing Group’s (WMG’s) first purpose-built facility, opened in 1986. Originally named the Advanced Technology Centre, IARC was established by Professor Lord Bhattacharyya, realising a vision to creating a dedicated facility enabling academic teams to work with industry.

In 2017, ADP was appointed for a multi-phased refurbishment and extension of the facility to create new research and testing facilities, primarily for the development of new, higher capacity automotive batteries. Enabled by a £20m investment from the Energy Research Accelerator (ERA) programme, the project was split into three phases:

  • Phase 1: A £13m Energy Innovation Centre – designed to capitalise on the growing electrical and hybrid vehicle battery market, with extensive new laboratories and workshops for battery characterisation, abuse testing, plus electric and hybrid drive test facilities.
  • Phase 2: A Battery Chemistry Scale-Up Line – researching innovative battery technologies to help speed up adoption of electric and hybrid propulsion systems. The facility allows electrochemists to create full-size prototypes without relying on battery manufacturers for production.
  • Phase 3: A Second Life Battery Centre – currently in progress, will further extend the facilities at the EIC.

Materials Engineering: Creating space for innovation in emerging and breakthrough technologies.

The new Materials Engineering Centre (MEC) is home to applications-driven, ‘engineering scale’ research into metallic, non-metallic and polymeric materials. Majority funded by the EPSRC, the Centre brings together two complementary workstreams for research and teaching: creating benefits from adjacency, synergy and economies of scale.

A BREEAM “Excellent” and EPC “A” rated building located on a prominent position at the corner of the main WMC Academic Square, the facility is formed of two, interlocking elements, with a design driven by the need to move people and materials between the two spaces.

A three story, 3,250m2 research hub houses laboratories, offices, support spaces and teaching rooms, while a triple height, 850m2 engineering hall, cleverly extruded from the research hub, is clad in semi-translucent material (giving a clear link with the materials and research within it).

The project was designed, tendered and constructed in a challenging 24-month period to meet EPRSC grant deadlines. High levels of mechanical servicing made Building Information Modelling (BIM, Level 2) critical to successful design development and coordination, engaging with both design team and end users.

Clever features help deliver long term value, not least the services design for the engineering hall. Created as a ring-main – following the hall perimeter to enable regular service drops for power, data, gasses and water – this design future-proofs the building for end-users allowing for changing equipment requirements moving forward.

‘Make-Like’ Production: A Step-Change for Advanced Materials Manufacturing.              

The Advanced Materials Manufacturing Centre (AMMC) is a collaborative research hub for the University and two of their main private sector partners, Tata Steel and Jaguar Land Rover. The 1075m2 hub is split into two, highly specialised facilities, a Make-Like-Production (MLP) facility and Advanced Steel Research Centre (ASRC). 

While the MLP facility tests the feasibility and stability of new manufacturing processes, the ASRC houses state of the art research and characterisation equipment, focused on transforming the UK steel industry into a low energy, resilient manufacturing base.

The building design is driven both by commercial sensitivity and future flexibility. Daylight is provided through roof lights rather than windows in the engineering hall, while externally, the Centre is clad in metal panels configured in a ‘dazzle’ pattern much like the prototype vehicle wraps used in the automotive industry, or the fractal patterns used to disguise aircraft.

Once again, a fully compliant, BIM Level 2 model was critical to successful design development. With additional funding sought (and awarded) throughout the design process, funder requirements could be swiftly incorporated into the design, keeping the project on track. The facility was tendered and constructed in just 16-months to meet the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF) grant deadline, opening in September 2018.

Submitted on 05/06/2019