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County Council Chairman Ian Monson toasting the new friendship with Yotta Group Chairman Mr Tong Chen as part of delegation of Chinese businessmen who are looking to invest in research and development facilities at Hethel being hosted by representatives of the Norfolk County Council and local business pictured at County Hall. Photo: Steve Adams
Friday, May 25, 2012
Norfolk’s world-class engineering expertise makes it the “ideal” location for a research and development centre to support a £1bn Chinese car manufacturing project, a Chinese investor said last night.
Chairman of the Yotta Group Tong Chen, who was part of a visiting Chinese delegation behind the project to use engineering developed in the UK to mass produce high-power, low-emission cars for a Far East market, was full of praise for the county’s abilities following a visit to Hethel Engineering Centre and Lotus Group yesterday.
While cars would be manufactured in China, the group plan to open one of two research and development centres in the UK.
Mr Chen said “The technology centre in the UK will be responsible for technology research and development. The ideal location will be the most beautiful Norfolk county.”
Earlier this week the Chinese delegation visited Westminster, McLaren Cars, an engineering company in Northampton and they will visit Loughborough University tomorrow.
Mr Chen said: “Comparatively. London which is a world-class city is crowded and difficult for future experts to live in and difficult for the type of work we are doing. But Norfolk is beautiful, there is local experience here, but it is global. Therefore I think this is ideal. It is definitely the best I have seen so far. There are a number of things that attracted my attention and impressed me with the region. The history, the culture and the experience in technology and the beautiful countryside and agriculture. Although it is supposed to be a large agriculture county, I can see from the Hethel Engineering Centre you have gathered the world leading technology and experience that makes it the ideal location. I feel you have gathered many world leading experts and knowledge resource is readily available. We have confidence that Norfolk has a long history of automotive research and development and this long history will benefit our work.”
Last night and yesterday afternoon the delegation were entertained by Norfolk County Council politicians and earlier in the week Mr Chen met Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy.
Mr Chen said: “More importantly the government is extremely, extremely supportive and there are hard working civil servants who are building up the confidence. I am fortunate the council leader gave us the full support of the region.”
Mr Chen would not be drawn on the timing of the project, but he said that collaboration and investment had already started.
“We will try our best to start as soon as possible, but it is linked to the progress of the project,” he said.
He also stated the importance of having Lotus in Norfolk for the project.
“Lotus is a global leading technology and they are project partners,” he said. Lotus is a important project partner for the future. We have been working together and are looking forward to working more in the future. We met today and had a fairly constructive meeting.”
The plans – which include a Chinese manufacturing facility which could produce 1.2m units each year – have already been endorsed by Beijing officials from the Ministry of Science and Technology and the National Development and Reform Committee following a meeting in Zhanjiang last July. The project is now starting a phase which will deliver a running engines and a demonstrator vehicle which is taking place in the UK.
Hethel Engineering Centre-based business Elitech Power is behind the plan and has been working with the Yotta Group on the project. Technology developed by engineers in the UK will be used to develop the new engines for the Chinese market.
Director David Taitt, a former engineering director at Lotus Cars and his business partner Rui Chen, a professor of low-carbon engineering at Loughborough University, have been working since 2006 to engage interest and support from investors for the project.
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