Powertrain engineering must become more digital as complexity increases and requirements become more demanding. In 2016 the APC's Virtual Engineering Roadmap laid out a vision for the next 25 years. In a dedicated workshop, IAAPS academics and partners from industry convened to explore how the industry has progressed on this journey and what is needed to ensure the full potential is achieved in this critical area of development for the automotive industry.

A series of pressing questions were posed for review and discussion within the workshop: - What progress has been made against the roadmap and is the vision still aligned with development requirements within the sector? Should anything be updated at this point? - What are the key roadblocks in delivering this vision? - What teaching/training is needed for current and future experts to ensure the roadmap delivers on its full potential? This section covered Professional Training, PhD training, Higher and Secondary Education.

The main themes explored in the workshop encompassed research, industrial and educational contexts in order to review the roadmap in the broadest possible sense.

Research Context

Professor Chris Brace opened the workshop providing the context and an introduction to the roadmap. Created in 2016 by the Automotive Council and the Advanced Propulsion Centre, the roadmap set out to identify research challenges arising from future industry demands. Now four years on, the automotive industry must assess progress achieved in line with the roadmap and identify which new innovations (such as computing capabilities) will influence its future direction. The key focus of Prof. Brace's opening address was that given the complexity of the industry and the research and innovation being delivered within it, there must be a greater focus on digital platforms and developments going forward, with the view that there will be an increased culture of “test once, simulate many”.

National Context

Professor Bradley Yorke-Biggs, CEO of the Institute of Digital Engineering, then provided the national context for the roadmap, and the changes being developed by the IDE. The IDE is funded by the Government Department of Business, Environment & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and is an intrinsic part of the APCs Digital Engineering & Test Spoke and Loughborough University.

Prof Bradley’s presentation highlighted the complexity of keeping a roadmap of this kind up to date as the industry enters one of the biggest periods of change. Looking specifically at digital engineering, the industry also faces the need for rapid change. The increase in computing capabilities, the growth of machine learning and artificial intelligence, combined with greater flexibility in advanced manufacturing technologies will allow for more intelligent and higher capacity digital modelling and testing in the near future. However, there are challenges to overcome at a testing and an industry level that come with increased use of digital modelling. Product development costs and durations are not sustainable in the digital age, and connected and autonomous vehicles will increasingly need a virtual test environment. Subsequently, assurance bodies need to be able to certify based on digital testing, and to be confident in these tests. The IDE are hoping to reduce the product life cycle from 4-5 years to 1-2 years through increased digitalisation.

Industrial Context

Following this, four talks were given by industry experts on how they utilise, or plan to further utilise digital engineering in their companies. These key speakers included:

  • Dr Royston Jones, Global CTO and Managing Director, Altair
  • Mr Alex Read, Senior Director, Siemens
  • Mr Joshua Dalby, Chief Engineer, Ricardo
  • Mr Peter Niedermaier, Business Manager Smart Calibration, Virtual Development and Data Management, AVL UK Ltd.

Educational Context

The talks concluded with Dr Richard Burke’s presentation covering the skills that will be vital for students who will become the future automotive industry and research leaders. Dr Burke summarised the current student learning experience from undergraduate to PhD level, outlining which digital tools are currently covered in the curriculum. He also outlined the multidisciplinary approach to learning adopted by the new AAPS Centre for Doctoral Training - which has welcomed students from a range of different disciplines from engineering to chemistry to psychology. This posed interesting questions for the workshop that followed such as; Do all engineers need to be trained in digital techniques? Are engineers the best source of digital tools experts?

“This type of event is vital as it brings together people from across our sector and beyond with a range of perspectives and interests to discuss important challenges facing our industry. It is important that we continue to discuss and iterate our technology roadmaps to ensure we remain aligned to their vision, but also adjust that vision where necessary. The events are also a fantastic opportunity for networking and meeting new friends and collaborators and stimulating new ideas and avenues of research.” - Dr. Richard Burke

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This workshop provided a fantastic opportunity for IAAPS researchers to bring together a range of experts and stakeholders to discuss the opportunities and challenges presented by significant developments in digital engineering and how that might shape the industry going forward.

These events are beneficial for the university and IAAPS to create new, and grow existing industry connections, and to create opportunities for future collaboration. They also offer companies (from SMEs to OEMs) the chance to meet and hear from academic leaders in the automotive field and engage in the debate around future direction of the industry. The IAAPS team were delighted to be joined by a range of organisations at this event including Dyson, FISITA and the APC.

“I thought the event was fantastic... It was so good to hear from a mixture of education, digital tool suppliers and users. I thought the workshops worked well too, and looking forward to seeing the outcome. Very keen to attend the next event.” - Marcus Roberts, Lead Consultant - Automotive Technology, MatchTech