Issue: Sep 2008


Centre of automotive excellence in Coventry



Centre of automotive excellence in Coventry

by James Hilton

The UK-based Coventry University has long been recognized as a centre of excellence for automotive design. In 2005, the Higher Education Funding Council for England established 74 Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, and Coventry University gained three of them. Its Centre of Excellence in Product and Automotive Design was awarded more than £2.5million to set up its prestigious national centre.
Located in the School of Art and Design, the award recognised its innovative work and international reputation in transport and product design. The aim of the Coventry project is to bring together the expertise of some of the most renowned car companies and leading universities in the world. 
Coventry University also works closely with automotive companies in research and development. The university has streamlined the process of getting industry involved in its research projects. Its Centres of Excellence play an important role in this by attracting investment to their projects. Companies working with the institution include ArvinMeritor, Corning, Engelhard, Ford Motor Company, Jaguar/Land Rover and Johnson Matthey.
Automotive Industries (AI) spoke to Professor Mike Tovey, Director for Design at Coventry University, and asked him about the university’s achivements.
Tovey: We were voted the best design school in the world at an international symposium in 2004, received the Sir Misha Black Award in 2006 and the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Further and Higher Education in 2007, all for our design courses specializing in automotive design. Clearly we can claim to be amongst the top in the world.
AI: What facilities and courses does your University offer for studies in automotive design and engineering?
Tovey:
We have facilities which we believe are unique to any university in the world. These include our Bugatti Building (Supported by the Bugatti Trust) which houses a full size vehicle design and styling studio, which supports detailed surface prototyping. It sits alongside full size stereo VR facilities. This has allowed us to work with a number of transport companies, many on a basis of commercial confidentiality, and including a wide range of applications from the design of bespoke SUVs to specialist diving equipment. Some of the work is student related, and it can involve multinationals such as Renault and Fiat. The design and development work is often with smaller specialist companies such the leading edge hydrogen fuel cell powered Microcab for which we have been a core partner holding an equity stake. We also have fully equipped engineering workshops and laboratories, where particularly in the area of emissions we are conducting leading edge research.
AI: What role does industry partnerships play in these courses?
Tovey:
There is a close link between both our commercial design work, much of it brought in through our Design Hub link on our technology park, and the postgraduate student work at M.Des, MSc and MA level. Each year we run a number of projects in collaboration with companies which form a core part of the programmes of study. In recent years the post graduate students have worked with Renault, Ferrari, Mazda, Fiat and Modec. Specialist companies such as Solutia Europe have also been involved. In addition we place students for work periods of typically six months in a range of companies across Europe.
AI: What are some of the products/technologies that have emerged from the partnerships?
Tovey:
Much is covered by confidentiality, but we are working on some highly innovative products associated with waste disposal. However, in the public domain probably the most visible is the hydrogen fuel cell powered Microcab vehicle which was exhibited at Transport for London recently, and is now being field tested in Birmingham.

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