KWM completes feasibility study into innovative lightweight chassis concept

High performance engineering specialist, KW Motorsport (KWM) has completed the first phase of a pioneering research project into the development of lightweight, low cost, composite chassis technology (known as ToPCaT) after securing funding from Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership (NEP).

NEP’s High Performance Technology Investment Programme, funded by the Regional Growth Fund and European Regional Development Fund, was established to support research and development and capital investment in high performance companies in Northamptonshire, leading to business growth and job creation.

KWM was awarded a grant following an extensive pitching process which saw the Brackley-based team deliver a presentation to a specialist panel brought together by NEP.

Kieron Salter, managing director of KWM, said the initial research results take it a step closer to successfully developing the innovative composite reinforced thermoplastic chassis structure that can be used initially across a range of niche vehicle applications including low cost motorsport applications.

He said: “The grant from NEP kick-started the feasibility study which allowed KWM to accelerate the research and development process and so will be able to realise commercial value sooner.”

The £50,000 funding represents 40 per cent of the £125,000 total cost of the feasibility study with the remaining 60 per cent coming from the company’s own research and development budget.

“The idea of exploiting thermoplastics, which were pioneered in aerospace applications, for niche vehicle and low cost motorsport applications was in the back of my mind for a long time. Being awarded this funding allowed us to focus on this new technology and put us at the forefront of innovation in this field,” he said.

“There are considerable technical challenges and design constraints that have to be overcome, but our initial research has yielded very exciting results that could radically change the way we think about the architecture and manufacturing processes of lightweight chassis structures.”

After receiving the feasibility study grant in June 2013, KWM worked closely with sister company KW Special Projects (KWSP) and recruited ex-F1 composite expert, Stuart Banyard, as head of advanced manufacturing to steer the project, which began in November 2013 and ended in March this year.

Now, KWM is preparing for the next stage in its innovative research after winning a 60% grant from Innovate UK through the Motorsport Valley Launchpad. This new funding will go towards the total project costs of £200,000 for phase two research to develop a proof-of-concept prototype, which will initially be tested in KWM’s own designed 09r trackday sports race car. Motorsport offers a unique development platform for innovative projects such as this, allowing rapid concept realisation and accelerated testing and development on track.

Cathy Martin, programme manager at NEP, said: “KWM is an excellent example of how SMEs continue to contribute to the UK’s growing reputation for excellence in engineering and technology. It is also vital to the local and wider economy that businesses are able to innovate and grow.”

The NEP funding has already enabled KWM to grow and provide employment as a result of the feasibility study. It is expected that as the ToPCaT project comes to fruition, additional highly skilled jobs will be created.

KWM is a high performance motorsport engineering company with a history of innovative race car and chassis design. The company offers high performance engineering services, including whole vehicle and sub-system design to the motorsport and niche vehicle sectors.

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