VENTURER Alliance – One Year On: CAVs in the West of England

On a pleasant but subdued day in June, South Gloucestershire Council hosted the CAV Cohort event, organised by KTN for Innovate UK/CCAV. The venue – unofficially known as the Concorde Museum but more formally, Aerospace Bristol – was absolutely fitting for the event that took place six months after the last CAV Cohort in December 2018, which also happened to have a Concorde on location. It might be slightly trickier to hold the next one on a runway at Heathrow if the organisers are looking for a hat-trick of Concordes though!

Whilst Concordes are simply impressive, there is also a logic chain here: namely, innovation. It is the 50th anniversary of Concorde’s maiden flight this year and arguably, the first anniversary of the CAPRI Pod built by Westfield Technologies that was trialled at Filton Airfield – on the very same runway Concorde took off from all those decades ago. Even though it has only been a year since the first CAPRI trial, the Brabazon Pod (aptly named as the Brabazon aircraft was developed in Filton nearly a century ago) is flying the flag for not only the CAPRI project and its nationwide collective of partners (some of which are part of the VENTURER Alliance), but also the West of England region, at the Science Museum.

During the June CAV Cohort event, the VENTURER Alliance presented on our successes in the first year of operation and announced the extension of the Alliance for a further year. The West of England Combined Authority (WECA) Mayor, Tim Bowles, also praised the project as part of his opening speech stating, “I am so proud to see the West of England at the forefront of CAV technology, hosting cutting edge projects such as VENTURER and FLOURISH.”

Following the event, there was keen interest from a number of local CAV specialists to form a West of England (WoE) CAV Cluster. A round table was hosted by the WECA soon after and what emerged was an opportunity to feed into the Zenzic UK Test Bed infographic, which currently focuses on the London-Midland corridor. To achieve this, it was important to determine what the West of England has to offer the UK CAV sector. Based on the attendees to the inaugural WoE CAV Cluster round table, it seems quite a bit in fact!

The immediate future opportunity is deploying and implementing CAV technology in two specific initiatives, to test our own capabilities and help develop new ones. The first is a potential Future Mobility Zone and the second, an Industrial Internet of Things wireless R&D network, which can support vehicle to infrastructure connectivity. Both of these opportunities will build on the learnings of the VENTURER project and the capabilities of the project partners. It is hoped that updates can be provided for both of these opportunities in the coming months. In the meantime, the VENTURER Alliance is flying the flag for the region as a collective group of CAV expertise that can support OEMs, Tier 1 suppliers and SMEs with developing technology, right here in the West of England. Innovation Hubs, such as the Bristol Robotics Laboratory and the University of Bristol’s Smart Internet Lab, are ready to mobilise, whilst the likes of Burges Salmon, can provide legal insight.

It is an exciting time for the West of England region, primarily because the Local Industrial Strategy was launched in July. This features Connected and Automated Mobility as an opportunity to exploit cross-cutting technologies and clusters in the region through creative collisions (metaphorically speaking in the instance of connected and automated vehicles, of course!). With the imminent appointment of an Innovation and Cluster Development lead, the West of England Combined Authority is strategically placed to facilitate collaboration, enabling the region to compete globally. We are also excited to be working closely with Highways England and FiveAI, who are integral to the WoE CAV Cluster.

Authored by Abdul Choudhury, South Gloucestershire Council