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Our history

Delivering applied research into advanced propulsion systems

We started out as a small automotive propulsion research team based at the University of Bath. From the outset, our approach has always been to deliver applied research into automotive propulsion systems in alignment with industry. As the requirements and challenges of industry have changed, we've expanded our team, facilities, expertise and scope to support our partners to develop future generations of cleaner, smarter engines, powertrains and driver technologies. At this critical stage in the evolution of the transport sector, we are investing and growing so we can continue to support our partners on the Road to net zero.

 
 
 
 
 

1966

The origins of automotive propulsion research at Bath pre-date the creation of IAAPS and go back to the establishment of the University in 1966. One of the founding professors in Mechanical Engineering, the late Professor Frank Wallace, was a specialist in the combination of two stroke Diesel engines and turbomachinery for heavy duty applications. Under his direction, strong partnerships with the Advanced Diesel Engine Engineering Team at Ford in Dunton were established - early indicators of the collaborative strategy with industry which was emerging.

1995

The arrival of Dr (later Professor) Gary Hawley opens a new phase in the academic approach, the focus becoming ‘research as a service to industry’. Recruitment of academics with an ambition to conduct collaborative research is prioritised.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

2000

Dr (later Professor) Chris Brace joins.

2003

Establishment of Powertrain and Vehicle Research Centre (PVRC).

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

2005

Professor Gary Hawley is awarded the prestigious Institution of Mechanical Engineers Crompton Lanchester Medal by the Board of the Automobile Division for the best published paper that is considered to have special influence on the advancement of automobile engineering. The paper, written with co-authors Dr Roshan Wijetunge and Professor Nick Vaughan and titled “An exhaust pressure control strategy for a diesel engine”, was the result of an intensive experimental and predictive investigation funded by the Ford Motor Company to develop an alternative method to control diesel engine performance than the traditional ones employed at the time.

 
 
 
 
 

In the same year, Dr (later Professor) Sam Akehurst joins. 

2008

The Medlock Chair in Engineering is created as a result of a million-pound endowment that was given to the University of Bath by the Medlock Charitable Trust to fund a named Chair in the Faculty of Engineering and Design. The first holder of the Chair is Professor Gary Hawley, in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, receiving funding to further important research into powertrain and vehicle systems. The funding is used to spearhead a new multidisciplinary research initiative in the area of sustainable bio-fuels to compliment the work being undertaken on low carbon vehicle technologies across the University’s research base.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

2009

BP, The Ford Motor Company and the University of Bath jointly receive the ‘Progressive Award’ during the annual Helios award ceremony, beating 1300 entrants from across the globe. The Prize recognises their joint collaboration on a 3-year UK Government funded project via the Technology Strategy Board to improve the fuel efficiency of diesel cars.

2009 -2014

First period of significant growth in activity within the PVRC, underpinned by a strategy to conduct research with impact in terms of reducing CO2 emissions on a significant scale achieved through work on electrification, turbocharging and engine downsizing in the field of passenger cars. New collaborations are fostered with partners including Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), McLaren, Cummins Turbo Technologies and SMEs such as Ashwoods and HiETA.

 
 
 
 
 

The growth in activity allows further academic appointments (Dr Chris Bannister (2009-2018); Professor Richard Burke (2012-); Dr Colin Copeland (2012-2019) and Professor Jamie Turner (2015-2020)), which in turn stimulate more research activities and partners through the 2010s, e.g. BorgWarner, Fiat and Shell.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

2010

The University of Bath receives ‘Excellence’ Award for outstanding academic/industrial collaboration with the Ford Motor Company.

2012

The University of Bath and Ford receive best ‘Collaborative Impact’ at the PraxisUnico Impact Awards Ceremony 2012, for their research into the reduction of C02 emissions. The fuel efficient, low carbon cars project, which was funded by the University’s £3.4 million Knowledge Transfer Account (KTA), was recognised as having made an outstanding contribution to society and the economy through innovation. It is one of four BP awards that reward teams which have built new business opportunities.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

2014

Growth of collaborative activity exposes that existing research facilities at the University of Bath are no longer suitable for large volumes of research activities, compromising engagement capabilities with industry partners. The vision for a new facility, bespoke to respond to specific needs of collaborative R&D, is born.

First major investment in new facilities: £2.1 million funding from EPSRC to upgrade vehicle facility and create Centre for Low Emission Vehicle Research (CLEVeR).

2015

Appointment of the PVRC as APC Spoke for Thermal Propulsion System Efficiency, recognising the increased engagement of the team with industry, SMEs and other collaboration partners, with a mandate to stimulate cooperation and knowledge exchange across the sector.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

2018

Award of an Advanced Engineering Business Acceleration Hub grant by the ERDF in recognition of our support for SMEs, with a total value of £2.9 million from ERDF, the University, local authorities and industry.

 
 
 
 
 

On the back of a strong track record of excellent collaborative research with a range of partners, the PVRC team and the University are successful in securing a major £70 million investment for the creation of a bespoke new facility dedicated to collaborative R&D: IAAPS, the Institute of Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems is conceived. UoB and South Gloucestershire Council enter a joint venture and purchase the Bristol & Bath Science Park (BBSP) for £18million. The £70million investment comes from the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund, West of England Local Enterprise Partnership and the University of Bath.

2019

Contractor appointed for the construction of the new IAAPS facility.

 
 
 
 
 

IAAPS Foundation Stone laid. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Science Minister Chris Skidmore MP unveils commemorative plaque to mark building milestone at the new IAAPS facility.

2020 -21

Construction of the IAAPS building nears completion; partnership with leading global technical supplier AVL which installs specialist testing equipment at the facility.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

2022

The new £70 million IAAPS facility at the Bristol & Bath Science Park opens.