THE UK government has created a new award and an engineering programme in honour of British Indian academic and manufacturing expert, Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya, who passed away earlier this year.
UK business secretary Greg Clark announced the two initiatives in the House of Commons on Tuesday (16), which are conceived as a way to carry on the legacy of Bangalore-born Bhattacharyya, best known as the founder of the Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) at the University in Warwick, who died aged 78 after an illness on March 1.
The new ‘Bhattacharyya Award’ for sustained collaboration between universities and industry will be administered by the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering to recognise the types of partnership being championed by the British government’s Industrial Strategy, that bring together academia and industry to tackle challenges across sectors.
And, the Bhattacharyya Engineering Inclusion Programme in the South West Midlands area of England will be a Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) education support programme for schools and Further Education (FE) colleges in the region, providing a range of extra-curricular activities, resources and bursaries to engage and inspire young people to pursue further study and careers in engineering.
“Today I am pleased to announce a tribute to celebrate the contribution Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya has made to the UK, since he came here from India in 1961,” Clark told MPs in his statement.
“Successive UK governments have drawn on his advice on manufacturing and technology and built strong lasting collaborative relationships with India and China. Kumar Bhattacharyya also championed high-quality technical education so the tribute I am announcing today reflects both these important aspects of his work,” he said.
The minister told Parliament about the leadership role Bhattacharyya had played at the Warwick Manufacturing Group for nearly 40 years to develop a global reputation for WMG in automotive research, the built environment, digital technology and healthcare systems, which built on strong collaborations between academia and industry.
University of Warwick’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart Croft said: “These new national awards are both fitting tributes for a remarkable man. Lord Bhattacharyya was the ultimate personification of collaboration between universities and industry, he also had a passion for expanding the number of people undertaking engineering education and ensuring that everyone could access opportunities to do so.
“To this end, he helped establish not just one but two WMG Academy schools for students aged 14-19 with an interest in science, technology, engineering and maths. I am sure that these new awards will inspire and reward many more people following his trailblazing path.”
Bhattacharyya is credited with facilitating talks that led to the Tata Group acquiring Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) in 2008.
His contributions were recognised when the National Automotive Innovation Centre, a GBP 150-million facility dubbed as the largest single automotive facility in Europe and a joint initiative between WMG and Tata Motors’ JLR at the University of Warwick, was renamed the Lord Bhattacharyya Building last year.
The new award and programme will officially open for entries later this year. Professor Dave Mullins, Acting Head of WMG, said the two tributes encompass the late academic’s commitment to education and research.
“He was determined that industry had the skills to innovate and be competitive, working with the UK government to ensure this started with technical education in schools. Lord Bhattacharyya believed in taking risks and, through collaborative R&D, over the last 40 years WMG has enabled multiple ground-breaking products to come to market,” said Mullins.
Dr Hayaatun Sillem, CEO of the Royal Academy of Engineering- which will be administering the award, described Bhattacharyya as a “pivotal figure” in the UK manufacturing industry.
“Lord Bhattacharyya was a passionate advocate of diversity and inclusion and we look forward to working with the Warwick Manufacturing Group, local employers, schools and colleges to create future generations of engineers and technicians for our industries,” he said.
The Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, added: “Lord Bhattacharyya’s contribution to the West Midlands economy was immense, not least in helping to place our region at the cutting edge of next-generation automotive technology.
“But Kumar was also a friend, colleague and trusted advisor and I can think of no better way of growing his wonderful legacy than with these two new initiatives.”