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How France plays pivotal role in Sunderland’s automotive industry

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Published on 19 September 2017


Three of Sunderland’s leading automotive centres are benefitting from international expertise while helping to drive forward the ambitions of students from the city’s twin town in France.

More than 8,880 jobs in Sunderland are with French-owned companies. These include Nissan, which is a strategic alliance of Nissan Motor Company Ltd and Renault, EDF Energy, SNOP UK (part of the market-leading Financiere SNOP Dunois Group) and Faurecia.

Now, automotive centres are each opening their doors to a postgraduate engineering student as part of a three-month work experience programme.

Lear Corporation, Unipres and our University’s Institute of Advanced Manufacturing and Automotive Practice, AMAP, welcomed students Florian Morin (at AMAP), Ronan Bedu (at Lear) and Nicolas Andrieu (at Unipres) from leading engineering school, Polytech’Nantes in Saint-Nazaire, to offer them first-hand experience in manufacturing and automotive development.

This is the ninth year that Sunderland companies have taken part in the programme to host students from Saint-Nazaire. The summer exchange offers the companies three months of work and consultation from a high-flying recent graduate and gives each student a high-quality work placement, providing them with experience in the kind of industries they will be seeking to enter after graduation as well as the chance to live and work in the UK.

AMAP researches traditional and low carbon automotive development as well as being involved in other fields of advanced manufacturing – this year’s student has been working on control and sensor systems for use in offshore wind technology in partnership with Sunderland business, Frontier Technical.

Lear Corporation manufactures foam for vehicle seating and Ronan has been helping them introduce a sensor monitoring system onto their production line.

Unipres makes automotive components and has been harnessing Nicolas’s programming expertise to streamline part of its processes and devise a new system to be introduced.

AMAP student Florian said: “The three months that we have spent in Sunderland have been amazing experience for me.

“Not only have I got to work on cutting-edge electrical engineering research alongside experienced colleagues from Frontier Technical and AMAP, but I have also had the time to get to know Sunderland.

“It will be hard to say goodbye now, but we are all so grateful for the experience that we have had here and all the work that Sunderland has put into making it such a success.”

Unipres’s Chris Wilson said: “Nicolas has been a real asset and it has been a pleasure to work with him. He’s only been here three months, but he has achieved an incredible amount during that time.

“We are already seeing the benefits of his work and colleagues will continue to take it forward and implement his changes in our systems. It has been a really positive experience mentoring him and he did become part of the team.

The partnership between Sunderland and Saint-Nazaire has been active since 1953. Twinning activities, many of which involve young people from the two cities, are organised by Sunderland City Council’s international team and currently involve schools, Sunderland Youth Parliament, the University, and the Foundation of Light among other partners.

The Mayor of Sunderland, Councillor Doris MacKnight, is delighted with the continued involvement of leading automotive and advanced manufacturing companies in the well-established programme.

She said: “This programme gives the French students the sort of opportunities anyone studying manufacturing and automotive development would jump at.

“It’s great to see how motivated the students are as a result of the programme, and to hear that the students’ input is providing real benefits to the companies taking part.

“We’re proud to be an outward-looking international city, and our links with our twin town in France are strong and growing.”