TWO of Worcestershire’s niche car companies are set to benefit from a new collaborative research programme funded by regional development agency Advantage West Midlands (AWM).

It has been set up to boost the competitive edge of West Midlands niche car makers such as the Morgan Car Company in Malvern and Worcester’s Lotus Lightweight Structures. Dr Richard Hutchins, corporate director of economic development at AWM, said: “The West Midlands has a vibrant and healthy niche vehicle cluster, which includes leading brands like Morgan, Modec, Westfield, Lotus and Microcab. It has arguably the world’s strongest concentration of niche vehicle manufacturers.”

The £2.5 million Advantage Niche Vehicle Programme will promote innovation through collaborative research and development, and adoption of accelerated technology.

The ANVP will be managed and led by CENEX, the Centre of Excellence for Low Carbon and Fuel Cell Technology, and supported by Coventry University. The university will host a project office for CENEX, acting as a hub for manufacturers to develop partnerships with Midlands universities and research and technology organisations.

Dr Hutchins said: “The base of specialist technology organisations is a distinct regional asset, actively generating new automotive technology. Making this accessible to independent niche manufacturers in collaborative groups will promote growth in the cluster through improved competitive advantage, while spreading costs will help overcome the financially driven aversion to take risks in adopting new technology.”

The Niche Vehicle Network, a group of 25 car manufacturers from the region, helped develop the project.