Birmingham manufacturing boss calls for more ‘local content’ in electrification investment race

2 min read

​A leading Birmingham industrialist has welcomed the recent ‘electrification’ investment into the West Midlands but called for the region to do more to make sure ‘local content supply’ is on the agenda.

Grayson Thermal Systems’ Stuart Hateley believes we are poised to miss a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to ensure that all tiers of the supply chain have the chance to benefit from the move to more sustainable vehicles.

The experienced managing director, who has been in charge at the Tyseley-based firm since 2009, wants local MPs and the West Midlands Combined Authority to come together with industry to find a way of ensuring more of the vehicles destinated for our roads feature locally made components.

He made the rallying call after his own firm sealed a major deal to supply upto 400 Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning systems for electric buses being made for use in Dublin.

“The West Midlands has had a great start to the year with a £2.5bn EV battery factory in Coventry receiving early-stage planning permission and, more recently, the £50m deal with National Express to deliver 130 electric buses by 2023,” explained Stuart, who is joined at the helm by brothers Ian and James Hateley.

“This is great news for the region in our bid to lead the electrification race, but what I’d like to know is if anything is being done to ensure there is local content in these projects or is most of the money going outside the region or even the country?”

He continued: “We have a lot of skills and technology already established in the area and what better way to help increase our domestic supply chain capacity than to involve suppliers in how these vehicles/infrastructure projects are built.

“I’d love to see Andy Street and other local MPs really get behind this, maybe in the shape of a taskforce that also gets manufacturers and academia on board. Get this right and it potentially could create thousands of high-skilled jobs locally, which will pour revenue back into the coffers of the Treasury.”

Birmingham-based Grayson Thermal Systems, which was founded in 1978 by current chairman Graham Hateley, has bounced back from the pandemic after securing more than £8m of orders from customers including ABB, Solaris, Skoda and Wrightbus.

The company’s ‘generations of knowledge’ has been pivotal to this growth, with its new innovative Battery Thermal Management System (BTMS) proving extremely popular with its core bus and coach market, as well as recent expansion into off highway, commercial vehicle and rail sectors.

Group turnover has now risen to £32m and more than 40 new jobs have already been created, with another twelve positions now available across engineering, operations and administration.

There’s a global success story brewing here too, with over 45% of the company’s anticipated 2022 turnover destined for export markets across Europe, North America and Asia Pacific.

Stuart concluded: “If we are involved in these electrification projects from the outset then we can build technology and expertise that can not only be used to attract future investment in the UK, but could also be exported across the world.

“It’s not a case that we should be handed these contracts on a plate, I don’t agree with that. You have to be competitive, skilled and deliver a solution that works, that’s the bottom line.

“We are doing everything possible to ensure our zero-emission vehicle innovation is designed for manufacture at the right price point to be commercially viable. However, it wouldn’t hurt for our Government and local authorities to explore ways where any public funding is spent with one eye on supporting the local supply chain.”