The UK’s Advanced Propulsion Centre’s (APC) has launched the World’s first network of virtual testing facilities, allowing the automotive industry to significantly reduce the research and development process of low-carbon propulsion technologies – resulting in significant cost savings enabling innovative SMEs to thrive.
The ground-breaking Multi User Systems Testing Environment for Research programme, known as MUSTER, uses advanced Hardware-in-the-Loop technology to connect each of the APC’s six Spoke sites. This allows SMEs and academics across the UK to virtually access a full suite of vehicle testing equipment and simulate an entire powertrain in real time.
A GB£3.5m (US$4.3m) project funded through APC working with industry, MUSTER removes the financial and logistical barriers often faced by SMEs developing new technologies. The facility gives smaller organisations access to the latest physical and virtual testing equipment, and allows them to test prototypes at an early stage of development, saving time and cost in the long term. The open access system is also designed to give SMEs the edge and remain competitive, helping their innovations to reach the commercialisation stage.
“Our Spoke community brings together academia and industry to share best practice, expertise and facilities in the UK,” explained Ian Constance, chief executive, APC. “True to this ethos, MUSTER will provide open access to an infrastructure of six world-leading test facilities throughout the UK, significantly reducing research and development time and costs allowing SMEs to become more competitive and engage with academia, while providing the UK with unique facilities to attract further investment from leading research companies around the globe.”
APC’s Spoke community consists of over 490 industrial and academic organisations and is coordinated by six universities – Bath, Brighton, Loughborough, Newcastle and Nottingham and Warwick. Five of the Spokes are centres of excellence for an aspect of future powertrain development, including electrical energy storage, internal combustion engine thermal, and systems, efficiency and power electronics. While the Digital Engineering and Test Spoke, led by Loughborough, aims to bring the latest in digital solutions to half the time and cost of bringing these technologies to market. The combination of physical and virtual testing equipment that each Spoke makes available through MUSTER will be relevant to its specialism.
In collaboration with industry and other research organisations, the APC Spoke network will deliver the MUSTER programme over three years. So far the programme has supported the creation of eight PHDs.
Created in a unique partnership between government and industry, the APC exists to position the UK as a centre of excellence for low carbon propulsion development and production. It provides access to £1 billion funding to support the collaboration between organisations that have innovative technologies with companies that can bring them to market.