Beyond the BSF, what does this R&D mean for the West Midlands locally – and nationally?

In line with the region’s Local Industrial Strategy (LIS), the University of Warwick is developing new inventions and technologies that will help to boost productivity in the West Midlands. The LIS also identified a number of major global challenges that the West Midlands is well placed to address, from an ageing population to clean growth.

Breakthroughs in two major market opportunities identified in the LIS – future mobility, and data-driven healthcare and life sciences – were presented by leading academics from the University during the event.

Automotive technology was a key focus at the BSF, with talks by Professor David Greenwood – who leads the Advanced Propulsion Systems team from WMG at the University of Warwick – and Senior Research Fellow Erik Kampert, also from WMG.

The West Midlands is an internationally significant automotive hub, with 40% of all cars exported from the UK made in the region, according to HMRC. It is home to more than 480 specialist automotive firms, including 36 of the top 50 global suppliers [ONS]. New innovations from this region therefore have the potential to make a major impact on the sector worldwide.

While WMG is developing cutting-edge systems for electric vehicles, David Greenwood highlighted the critical barriers to growing this industry and developing affordable cars for the mass market. By 2030, 75% of vehicles on UK roads could run on electricity. He highlighted the huge opportunities for the efficient recycling and reuse of batteries for electric vehicles, and the importance of efficient and accessible charging points.

Meanwhile, Erik Kampert focused on the importance of mobilising 5G technology for autonomous vehicles. The speed and connectivity of 5G will enable cars to communicate in real-time, helping to avoid accidents. With the West Midlands becoming the UK’s first multi-city 5G testbed, the region is piloting applications for future mobility that could be rolled out internationally.

The University of Warwick is also developing cutting-edge healthcare provision based on tech and data, which also builds on the West Midlands’ strength in life sciences and clinical trials.

The region boasts three medical schools, with 4,000 students studying medicine each year and around 20,000 covering related subjects.

The BSF hosted a session with Deepak Parashar, Assistant Professor at Warwick Medical School, and Siobhan Quenby, Professor of Obstetrics at the University of Warwick, to discuss how data can inform personalised medicine. Combining patients’ real-life experiences with maths, artificial intelligence and learnings from clinical trials can help to develop highly personalised treatments and support for people dealing with miscarriages or cancer, for example.

During another event at the BSF, Nasir Rajpoot, Professor of Computational Pathology at the University of Warwick, explained how artificial intelligence (AI) can help to fight cancer. Analysing huge amounts of cancer image data is helping to develop AI algorithms that can detect whether an image of human tissue is cancerous.

While AI can’t replace human operators, it will help to inform doctors when different levels of treatment, such as surgery, are required. AI is also capable of sorting through large amounts of data that would be impossible to undertake manually. The technique is being adapted for lung, oral and colorectal cancer, but has the potential to analyse many more forms of the disease.

The West Midlands’ LIS identifies how the region must develop its sectors of strength to make its mark globally. It is clear that the innovations presented at the BSF have the potential to make a far-reaching impact, by helping to solve future challenges for the global economy – and making a tangible, positive difference to people’s lives.