Automotive supplier focuses on new technologies with launch of UK innovation centre

Redditch-based engineering group, GKN has opened a new UK Innovation Centre for its automotive division.

The centre, in Abingdon, will focus on developing state-of-the-art vehicle technologies and systems.

It will use GKN’s expertise in electrified drivelines, lightweight structures, composite materials and additive manufacturing to create a range of new technologies for next-generation vehicles.

Central to GKN’s new official partnership with the Panasonic Jaguar Racing Formula E team, the UK Innovation Centre will also lead on delivering new components and technologies for the Jaguar Formula E electric race car.

GKN has already delivered its first parts for the I-TYPE 2 in the form of custom-built fluid ports made from laser-sintered steel.

The new fluid ports are intended to be an illustration of GKN’s expertise in additive manufacturing. A key area of research and development for future automotive applications is 3D-printed titanium, in which GKN is already a world leader through its cutting-edge aerospace division.

The opening coincides with an announcement confirming a raft of senior management changes within the group.

It has confirmed that group finance director, Adam Walker will leave the business on November 10. His replacement is Jos Sclater, who will take over from the same date.

Phil Swash, CEO of GKN Driveline, will assume responsibility for the Wheels and Structures and OffHighway Powertrain businesses which currently report to Mr Walker, from November 1. His title will change to chief executive, GKN Automotive to reflect his expanded responsibilities.

Finally, Hans Büthker, currently CEO Fokker Technologies, will assume the role of chief executive, GKN Aerospace from January 1, 2018 and will also become a member of the Executive Committee from that date. Mr Büthker joined GKN with the acquisition of Fokker Technologies in 2015 and has held a number of roles within Fokker and its former owners Arle and Stork over the past 20 years.

Jaguar Racing Formula e at the GKN Driveline Innovation Centre

In one of his last official duties in his current role, Mr Swash said: “Our new UK Innovation Centre will develop an array of next-generation technologies that will deliver significant benefits to electric vehicle, motorsport and off-highway applications.

“For electrified systems in particular, GKN’s expertise will help automakers to develop lighter, quieter and more efficient vehicles. No other company can apply aerospace experience to automotive applications in the same way as GKN, unlocking exciting opportunities for additive manufacturing and composites.”

On display at the launch of the new centre were a range of advanced composite driveline elements, as well as a live demonstration of carbon fibre driveshaft manufacturing.

Also on display was one of the Jaguar Formula e cars.