West Midlands gigafactory proposal gets backing from more regional leaders

Coventry gigafactory

Leaders in the West Midlands have back the region’s ambitions to build a gigafactory next to Coventry Airport.

Dr Clive Hickman, the leader of the Manufacturing Technology Centre, and Margot James, the executive chair at WMG, University of Warwick have made the West Midlands’ compelling case for a new battery technology Gigafactory which would support the heart of the UK’s auto industry.

The West Midlands is uniquely placed to host this vital manufacturing infrastructure, which will help ensure that the UK is able successfully to transition to electric vehicles and ultimately meet its net-zero goals by 2050.

A planning application for a Gigafactory at Coventry Airport has been submitted by joint venture partners, Coventry City Council and Coventry Airport Ltd.

The proposals, which were first announced in February this year, are set to be determined by Warwick District Council and Coventry City Council.

Dr Clive Hickman, chief executive of the MTC, said: “A West Midlands Gigafactory would spark a resurgence of Britain’s proud automotive heritage, creating thousands of well-paid, high-skilled jobs to thousands of workers in the region, and provide a pipeline of demand and investment for local SMEs. Without this manufacturing infrastructure, the whole industry will be placed under threat – not just from devastating job losses at manufacturers, but from the wider impact of the collapse of businesses which are critical to the automotive supply chain. Net zero can only be achieved by 2050 if the automotive industry is able successfully to shift away from internal combustion to electric vehicles. However, to execute this transition, and to protect the thousands of UK jobs which are reliant on the industry and its wider supply chain, particularly in the Midlands, we need to secure new battery technology Gigafactories at the heart of the UK’s auto industry – the West Midlands. Failing to do this will put the whole sector at risk – and endanger the future of the UK’s proud automotive and engineering heritage.”

Margot James, executive chair, WMG, University of Warwick said: “For over a decade, WMG have been applying their battery expertise on a range of collaborative projects with the automotive industry. Together with the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre, we are playing an essential role in attracting and growing battery Gigafactories in the UK. We strongly support the need for a Gigafactory in the West Midlands.”

The submitted plans provide an updated analysis of the economic benefits of a Gigafactory to the West Midlands. The proposals would deliver 5.7m sq ft of space for both battery production and recycling, would add £434m in GVA to the regional economy each year, as well as create 6,000 new jobs and tens of thousands more in the supply chain.

The proposals also confirm that the Gigafactory will be powered entirely by green energy, using a combination of sources including solar and wind power, as well as grid supplied renewables, and will be able to recycle used batteries as well as build new ones in an industry-leading approach known as ‘cradle to cradle’.

The West Midlands offers one of the most competitive sites for a Gigafactory in the UK. A third of all cars produced in the UK come from the region which has unique access to existing supply chains. The region is home to Jaguar Land Rover, Aston Martin Lagonda, and BMW, whilst Coventry Airport is adjacent to the UK’s largest battery research centre, the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (UKBIC).

In the last month, the UK Government has faced increasing pressure from the industry to back more Gigafactory’s. In June, both the CBI and SMMT published reports calling for the UK Government to increase its support for UK battery manufacturing facilities to keep up with European competitors.