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Build & Sustainability

Network tasked with driving forward UK’s PEMD capability meet in the region

The North East played host to Driving the Electric Revolution Industrialisation Centres’ (DER-IC) first consortium event, bringing together organisations from around the UK which are at the forefront of accelerating supply chain growth in PEMD (power electronics, machines, and drives) to support the UK in its road to net zero.

Last week, representatives from more than 30 of DER-IC’s partner organisations including universities, research and technology organisations (RTOs) and manufacturing groups met at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Arts in Gateshead, to discuss their respective successes in designing, developing and testing the latest innovations to PEMD and UK manufacturing. The barriers industry need support to overcome to meet net zero targets were also up for discussion.

DER-IC was awarded £33m of funding by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to promote the UK as a centre of excellence in PEMD manufacturing processes, led by Newcastle University.

Operating out of four regional centres, including DER-IC North East, an Innovation Centre in Sunderland a stone’s throw from the Nissan factory, the project provides open access to £300m+ of PEMD manufacturing equipment for developing, testing and manufacturing products.

DER-IC executive chair, Professor Matt Boyle OBE, opened the event by talking about the collective responsibility of the partners in the room to develop and modernise UK supply chains. Matt said: “It’s not about product, it’s about process. We’re here to share DER-IC’s capability across the network and demonstrate what a unified network, working to the same goal, can achieve for the UK’s PEMD industry.”

Partners from DER-IC’s network then shared individual developments and successes, discussing how their work supports the UK manufacturing industry in a wider context.

Rachel Chambers, chief operating officer for DER-IC North East, then led a group discussion on the challenges facing industry and how DER-IC can help to solve them. Rachel said: “Coming together in a room like this with the UK experts across the PEMD technologies and asking the big questions gets everyone to consider the wider context of what they’re doing. Typically, each partner is bedded into their own work, which is incredibly technical and often very specific in nature. This brings it all together, identifying how we can help businesses push forward with electrification. The work the partners do will support UK PEMD to compete globally and encourage a sovereign supply of world-class processes and products as well as being able to export. It also aims to solve some of the problems that have been presented by constantly changing external factors such as the ongoing geopolitical situation which is forcing the UK to accelerate some of its homegrown technology. This really is a huge opportunity for the UK.”

The topic then turned to focus on how the network can help to solve problems for wider industry, with the biggest pinch point around academia and skills.

Matt Boyle concluded: “We need investment in skills. We don’t have enough people to develop supply chains. The demand is increasing faster than supply can keep up, but that means there is huge opportunity for an increase in highly skilled, well-paid jobs to become a reality UK-wide. Together, we all hold a responsibility to develop accessible routes into engineering and PEMD to suit a range of people including upskilling and reskilling existing roles, academia, technical education and apprenticeships right down to instilling a desire to know more about ‘how things work’ from a young age so that people ask that important question throughout their life. At DER-IC we are highly conscious of this and the role that we play. Electrification can be a difficult concept to explain but it’s our responsibility to decode it.”

DER-IC is a project designed to accelerate PEMD supply chain capability and growth. For more information, visit