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RACE project to enhance Oxfordshire’s capabilities in autonomous vehicles

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Remote Applications in Challenging Environments (RACE) at Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire

OxLEP has announced a new Government-funded pilot project at Remote Applications in Challenging Environments (RACE) at Culham Science Centre.

Building on the success of an earlier project funded by the government, this pilot project intends to improve the ability of RACE (pictured above) to host Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAV) trials.

CAV allows the development of driverless cars, sensor technology and intelligent traffic systems in a safe environment. Oxfordshire has a dynamic and flourishing CAV cluster; RACE is a key UK centre of excellence and has one of the UK’s only semi-controlled testbeds.

This funding will facilitate further development to the RACE site including constructing a new, fully data-enabled vehicle storage facility, adding smart traffic signals and the purchasing of a next-generation AV-EV mini-bus. This will attract more companies to locate to the Culham site and additional companies to use the testing facilities.

CAV features heavily in the government’s urban strategy for how the UK will move around our towns and cities in the future. Oxfordshire County Council was the first UK local authority to include CAVs in the local transport strategy and to have a dedicated CAV team, currently the largest in the UK.

OxLEP is one of 38 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in England playing a key role in driving forward economic growth and – by 2021 – it’s expected that central government will have invested over £12bn into the UK economy via the Local Growth Fund.

The Local Growth Fund investment aims to allow LEPs to use their local knowledge to promote growth in their individual regions. Analysis has shown that for every £1 of Local Growth Fund invested, £4.81 in benefits could be generated. OxLEP secured £780,000 of funding for the project via the government’s Local Growth Fund.

Since its inception in 2011, OxLEP – with its partners – has secured around £660m-worth of government funding for Oxfordshire, which has seen more than 48,000 new jobs created in the county to-date. In total, OxLEP currently oversees a £2.2bn growth programme for the county.

Nigel Tipple – OxLEP Chief Executive said: “The confirmation of such a significant project – that will further enhance the county’s global capabilities in connected and autonomous vehicles – is excellent news.

“As the Local Enterprise Partnership for Oxfordshire, we will continue to play a vitally important role for the county moving forward, securing investment that enables new opportunities that benefit the county’s businesses – and in this instance, our world-leading transformative technologies – for many years to come.

“Oxfordshire has significant ambitions, including the aim of becoming a top-three global innovation ecosystem by 2040 via the county’s Local Industrial Strategy and this Local Growth Fund project will support these aspirations.”

Garry Staunton – Lead Technologist at RACE/UKAEA said: “We are delighted that OxLEP have secured this funding as it further strengthens our position at the heart of the growing Oxfordshire’s connected and autonomous mobility cluster.

“We are particularly excited by the prospect of the funding allowing us to develop the capability to operate autonomous vehicle based mobility services on our campus.”

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