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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 November, 2003, 18:24 GMT
Innovation centre for motor sport
Artist's impression of the planned 10m auto technium in Llanelli
Fast track: The planned 10m auto technium would aid new firms
A 10m project to construct a centre of excellence in motor sport engineering has been given the go-ahead.

The Auto Technium Business Innovation Centre to be developed in Llanelli aims to provide space for 18 small enterprises and research companies, which will be directly linked to Swansea University and to the motor industry.

The launch of the scheme - backed by cash from the Welsh Assembly Government - was time to coincided with the start of the Wales GB Rally on Thursday - the UK leg of the World Rally Championship.

In addition, Ford has decided to base its rally driver training academy in Wales from next year.

This is a fast-changing, highly competitive industry where the proportion of electronics in the average vehicle is expected to double during the next decade
Gareth John, Welsh Development Agency

The automotive industry is the largest manufacturing sector in Wales, employing more than 25,000 people.

The planned auto technium is the latest of the innovation centres designed to foster companies in the so-called knowledge economy - combining expertise in the private sector and academia to encourage business growth.

It will specialise in automotive design and electronics and will use the testing facilities at Pembrey, west Wales, an international-standard racing circuit and testing facilities.

Engineering experts at Swansea University will help the fledging firms with their research and development projects for the motor and motor sports industries.

Gareth John of the Welsh Development Agency said the centre would encourage new hi-tech firms in the industry.

"This is a fast-changing, highly competitive industry where the proportion of electronics in the average vehicle is expected to double during the next decade.

'Inspires the drivers'

"We can expect to see the focus changing from basic manufacturing towards specialist design and the development of advanced technology products and systems."

Ford's Rally Sport Trainer Academy will aim to bring on the rally drivers of the future.

Assembly Economic Development Minister Andrew Davies said: "The academy not only inspires the drivers of the future but provide the skills, training and enthusiasm for a wide range of associated careers in motor sport.

"It fits in with our aim to use the rally to attract, motivate and retain more high calibre engineering students to feed the growth of this sector."

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