Why a radical rethink of R&D investment is required in 2020


Continued disruption, restructuring and reshaping of the automotive industry will be required to make increasing levels of R&D affordable whilst simultaneously representing a major growth opportunity in the year ahead.

The proliferation of electrification and connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) technologies will continue to be amongst the top automotive trends in 2020, which will continue to push up the already soaring costs of research and development (R&D). Indeed, the latest figures show that European auto manufacturers spent a record £33.3bn on R&D in 2019 – 35% more than the £24.6bn spent in 2014/15.

At the same time, Bloomberg New Energy Finance has revealed the continued decline of diesel vehicles is giving way to the rising popularity of electric vehicles – with EV sales set to rise from 80,000 in 2019 to 131,000 in 2020. Meanwhile, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) predicts that the mass-market potential of CAVs presents a £62bn annual economic opportunity by 2030.

With this in mind, Horiba MIRA is expecting to see greater collaboration across the industry to join forces in making R&D investment more cost-effective – stating that partnerships between start-ups, major automakers and local and central governments are crucial.

Amid a rapidly developing appetite for EV and CAV technologies, as well as fuel cells becoming a serious proposition, we are currently facing the most significant transformation of automotive mobility since the adoption of the car as a form of mass transportation. While this represents a massive opportunity to exploit previously untapped markets, it brings its own set of challenges that are, unsurprisingly, sending shockwaves through the automotive industry. 

Given the increasing R&D costs and associated pressures, front of mind for many will be how to utilise emerging technologies as cost-effectively and profitably as possible to optimise their R&D activity. Prioritising R&D activities, as well as securing the talent required to deliver such programmes, will be key.

In the year ahead, we predict continued disruption and change – one involving continued mergers, partnerships and joint ventures between start-ups, auto manufacturers and the supply chain – with the aim of making R&D more affordable, in order to truly reap the benefits of greener, connected and increasingly automated mobility.

Another challenge in the coming year will be the ongoing confusion surrounding Brexit and what it means for the industry. Painting a bleak outlook in November, the SMMT predicts that if the UK leaves the EU without an ambitious trade deal, 1.5 million vehicles will be lost from UK manufacturing by 2024 at a cost of £42.7billion.

As an industry, the need for clarity on what Brexit means in terms of investment, regulatory alignment and collaboration has never been greater. A key focus this year will be working with the new UK government to ensure that Britain remains at the forefront of global automotive innovation and deployment.

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