Each month The Engineer picks 10 of the most notable contract news stories from our Business Briefs archive. In April there were plenty of companies going green, with large automotive companies investing in electric technology, a carbon-reducing finance scheme launched and further contracts signed in the renewable power sector. The UK in particular has seen much activity in the defence sector.
With the holiday season fast approaching, we kick off our rundown with a contract awarded by a cruise operator. Finland-based Wärtsilä, a provider of power systems to the marine industry, signed a five-year maintenance support agreement with Royal Caribbean Cruises and its operating companies Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Azamara Club Cruises. The maintenance support agreement contains a wide range of services, including maintenance planning, spare parts logistics optimisation, the development and testing of engine components, fuel consumption optimisation and an advisory service for overhauls and workshop services.
On land, transport was most definitely heading in an electric direction. In Spain, German engineering conglomerate Siemens reached an agreement with Spanish construction company FCC to develop and implement electric vehicles in the country. Both companies are seeking to become leaders in electric mobility and anticipate that joining forces will enable them to grow in this market.
Under this agreement, Siemens will act as a technology partner and provide know-how and technology related to charging systems, while also enabling FCC to participate in its research projects in the field. FCC will be in charge of building the charging infrastructure.
In China, meanwhile, Volvo Buses agreed with the native SAIC Motors to form a joint-venture company that will produce driveline systems for hybrid and electric buses. The new company will be 60 per cent owned by SAIC and 40 per cent owned by Volvo. To finance the new Shanghai Green Bus Drive System company, which will be based in Shanghai, China, Volvo will invest RMB40m (£3.76m) and SAIC RMB60m (£5.64m).
After securing approval from the relevant government authorities, the partners will create a facility for the new company that is scheduled to be fully operational in the fourth quarter of this year. There, the company will concentrate on assembling driveline systems, prototype manufacturing and testing. The deal builds on an existing co-operative agreement between the two companies, which, for the past 10 years, have operated Sunwin Bus, one of the largest city-bus manufacturers in China.
Also in China, US manufacturer 3M plans to build a new manufacturing site for photovoltaic solar materials and renewable energy products, in conjunction with the Hefei High-tech Industrial Development Area. It was announced in early April that the new plant will be called 3M Materials Technologies (Hefei) and be located in Hefei High-tech Park, eastern China.
The facility will produce a variety of products, including 3M Scotchshield Film, a solar backside barrier film used in crystalline silicon solar photovoltaic modules. The construction of 3M’s ninth manufacturing facility in China is scheduled to begin in the second quarter of this year.
The UK’s green technology sector received a boost with the announcement of a green equipment finance scheme, provided by Siemens and The Carbon Trust, a not-for-profit company created by the UK government to help businesses reduce their carbon footprint. Worth up to £550m over the next three years, the low-carbon finance scheme is said to be the first of its kind and will enable UK businesses to invest in cost-effective energy-efficiency equipment and other low-carbon technologies, such as high-efficiency lighting and biomass heating.
Siemens Financial Services UK will provide the financial backing and manage the provision of funding, while Carbon Trust Implementation Services, a subsidiary of the Carbon Trust, will independently assess the carbon, energy and cost savings of any project. It is claimed that this should enable the financing to pay for itself through energy savings and result in no net cost to the customer.
The Regional Growth Fund (RGF), also provided by the UK government, was awarded in April to French power company Alstom for investment in the Alstom Grid facilities in Stafford. The RGF funding is designed to encourage enterprise, growth and jobs in the private sector and will help develop R&D facilities at Alstom’s grid engineering site.
The site, one of Alstom Grid’s five global technology centres, counts among its activities the development of advanced High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) systems, designed to enable highly efficient electricity exchange between networks and high-voltage transmission over very long distances, in applications such as large-scale renewable power generation projects.
Next to the defence sector, which, as usual, saw many large contracts signed. In April it was largely UK companies in the spotlight, particularly BAE Systems, which received two notable awards. Earlier in the month the aerospace, defence and security company announced that it was responding to an urgent operational requirement to equip the UK Tornado fleet with a Helmet Mounted Cueing System (HMCS).
Work began immediately on the £8m contract to integrate the system on to the aircraft. Tornado crews in-theatre currently provide close air support, tactical reconnaissance and convoy support to land forces. The Helmet Mounted Cueing System will project visual targeting symbols on to the visor of the pilot’s helmet, in front of one eye.
In addition, the Tactical Data Link Delivery Team within the MoD’s Defence Equipment and Support organisation awarded BAE Systems a £1m contract to demonstrate the Link 22 Data Link Processor (DLP) for two of the Royal Navy’s newest ships — the UK’s Type 45 Destroyer and QE Class Carriers.
Link 22 provides a beyond line-of-sight, secure, tactical digital communications capability designed to succeed Link 11, supporting the exchange of information and giving the user an enhanced common tactical picture across air, surface, sub-surface and land platforms. As part of the trials programme, BAE Systems will undertake control and monitoring of Link 22 equipment, network monitoring systems and tactical message exchange. A set of studies and reports will be produced to scope and de-risk the activities required to integrate the DLP onto the Type 45 and QE class.
The MoD also awarded a contract to a consortium of companies, led by international engineering consultancy Frazer-Nash, to support the delivery of new Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker ships, as part of the MoD’s Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability (MARS) programme. The MoD has a requirement for a number of tanker ships, double hulled to reflect the need to comply with the International Maritime Organisation, which can effectively and efficiently replenish and sustain the Royal Navy.
Frazer-Nash and its partners — Seatec UK, Babcock Marine and Technology, Atos Consulting and LSC Group — will be providing Afloat Support Shipping Engineering and Technical Services to the MoD’s Afloat Support Project Team. This will initially involve an extensive range of engineering services, including naval architecture, safety management and analysing through-life costs, to assist the project team in the review of proposals from five bidding companies.
For our final story, we make an about turn to look at a different sector entirely – that of healthcare. One of The Engineer’s most-read business stories in April was that of GW Pharmaceuticals entering into an exclusive licence agreement that would enable Novartis Pharma to commercialise the Sativex drug in Australia, New Zealand, Asia (excluding Japan, China and Hong Kong), the Middle East (excluding Israel/Palestine) and Africa.
Sativex is a cannabis-based drug that has been developed as a treatment for spasticity due to Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Under the terms of the agreement, Novartis will have exclusive commercialisation rights to Sativex, be responsible for regulatory filings and will act as Marketing Authorisation holder for Sativex. GW will be responsible for the manufacture and supply of Sativex to Novartis.