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Niche Vehicle R&D programme invites low carbon projects

May 17, 2012 By Green Car Guide

Niche Vehicle R&D programme

A joint call for collaborative R&D projects under the
Niche Vehicle R&D Programme
, with £900,000 funding, has been announced by Cenex, the Technology Strategy Board and the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV).

The call for bids for grant funded collaborative R&D opens on 1 June and closes on 31 July 2012. Applications are invited from UK niche vehicle manufacturers and suppliers who have two or more collaborative partners and wish to conduct a project (maximum six months duration) to develop a new product or process around the theme of carbon reduction and lightweight vehicle technologies .

Costs for R&D often prohibit small manufacturers from improving their products and processes. The Niche Vehicle R&D Programme is designed to overcome these obstacles to development and assist manufacturers in investing in R&D; with the aim of ensuring their continuing success in a demanding market place.

The programme is built around the established Niche Vehicle Network – an informal network of niche vehicle manufacturers, their supply chain and specialist technology suppliers.

Rob Anderson, Programme Manager, Niche Vehicle Network, at Cenex, said: “Cenex has been supporting niche automotive companies to bring innovative new products to the market for over five years. Our programme complements the funding available from OLEV and the Technology Strategy Board Low Carbon Vehicles Innovation Platform and enables us to continue to support companies across the UK.”

Tim O’Brien, Innovation Platform Leader for Low Carbon Vehicles at the Technology Strategy Board said: “We are very pleased to support this new call for collaborative research and development in the UK niche vehicle sector. This forms part of our extensive programme to accelerate the pace of innovation in low carbon vehicles and help bring new technologies towards commercialisation.”

An information day to discuss the programme and how to apply for grant funding will be held on the 30 of May at the Heritage Motor Centre, Gaydon. Further details of this event and how to apply for funding can be found on the Niche Vehicle website

Cenex, the UK’s first Centre of Excellence for Low Carbon and Fuel Cell technologies , is a UK independent not for profit company. By encouraging the early market adoption of low carbon and fuel cell technologies in automotive applications, Cenex aims to assist the UK automotive supply chain to compete in global markets as well as showcase UK expertise to encourage inward investment.

The Niche Vehicle Network is the largest and most diverse cluster of niche vehicle producers in the world. The network is characterised by low volume production, specialised components, bespoke body and chassis and (in the case of sports cars) a significant proportion of hand-built or hand-finished parts companies.

One area of significant activity within the network is the production of specialist light and heavy commercial vehicles (from trucks and vans) with manufacturers such as Dennis Eagle (refuse trucks). Niche Vehicle members are also brand leaders in the motorcycle industry, with Norton and Red Cougar amongst its members.

In addition, there are a number of manufacturers of niche premium brand vehicles and sports cars, such as Aston Martin, Morgan, Westfield, Raw, Great British Sportscars and Delta Motorsport. These manufacturers, along with some of their supply chain companies and technology providers, are currently members of the network.

Niche vehicle manufacturers operate within a well-established and well-defined UK and (in many cases) global market, and have also developed some unique capabilities (such as speed of reaction to specific customer demand). Whilst a considerable amount of innovation comes from these companies, the risks attached to a full R&D effort and subsequent type approval for a single company can stop them investing and acts as a barrier to growth. The Niche Vehicle Network aims to promote and stimulate R&D collaboration, in order to give companies the ability to react to new regulations, innovate and share knowledge. Further information on the Niche Vehicle R&D Programme and the Niche Vehicle Network can be found at

The Technology Strategy Board is a business-led government body which works to create economic growth by ensuring that the UK is a global leader in innovation. Sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Technology Strategy Board brings together business, research and the public sector, supporting and accelerating the development of innovative products and services to meet market needs, tackle major societal challenges and help build the future economy. For more information please visit:

The Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) is a cross-Whitehall team that has been established to manage this programme of measures. Comprising people and funding from the Departments for Transport; Business, Innovation and Skills; and Energy and Climate Change; OLEV is responsible for taking forward a national policy on this shared agenda.

Read about Cenex Low Carbon Vehicle Event 2012