The Blair Project, a Black-owned STEM education provider based in Manchester, has been named one of the 16 UK-wide projects to share £4 million of funding from the Driving the Electric Revolution challenge, delivered by Innovate UK for UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), to help to create the workforce of the future.
Using the excitement of building, testing and racing electric go-karts, The Blair Project engages underrepresented youth and adults, particularly those from minority ethnic and lower socioeconomic backgrounds, encouraging them to pursue careers in STEM. Its programmes are focused on accelerating the electric revolution, and equipping people with skills in green technology to enable them to tackle climate change.
The funding from UKRI will go towards the development of ProtoEV 4 Skills, a free-to-play immersive gaming app, in partnership with augmented and virtual reality specialists Fuzzy Logic Studio. The app will target players aged 11-19, giving them the opportunity to compete or collaborate to convert virtual petrol go-karts into the fastest, most energy efficient and stylish virtual e-karts.
The app uses gamified augmented reality to teach vehicle design, EV propulsion and invention skills. Extending the reach of The Blair Project’s physical ProtoEV STEM Challenge, the app will engage a larger, more diverse pool of future innovators, providing links to EV careers.
Launched by UKRI, the Driving the Electric Revolution challenge is investing £80 million in electrification technologies including power electronics, electric machines and drives (PEMD). ProtoEV 4 Skills, alongside the other 15 projects awarded funding, will support the UK’s push towards a net-zero carbon economy and contribute to the development of clean technology supply chains, worth £80 billion in gross domestic product by 2050.
Nile Henry, founder and CEO of The Blair Project, said:
“We are passionate about growing an army of future innovators, technicians, engineers and ecopreneurs from under-represented groups. This funding award from UKRI for the ProtoEV app, will help to democratise and remove the barriers to participation in innovation. It will allow all young people regardless of age, ability or background to tinker with new technologies, discover talents they never knew they had, learn industry relevant skills, collaborate with others and progress into rewarding careers through the power of gaming.”
Harvey Trent, director of Fuzzy Logic Studio, said:
“Immersive technologies, such as Augmented and Virtual Reality, will play an ever-increasing role in closing the future skills gap within the UK. The interactive nature of the final app will enable young people to engage with the world of engineering design and explore the career opportunities that are key to achieving a net-zero carbon economy. We are excited to partner with the team at The Blair Project and build on the phenomenal success of their existing physical STEM challenge.”
Professor Will Drury, Challenge Director for Driving the Electric Revolution at UKRI, said
“We’ve known for too long now that there is not only an engineering skills gap in the UK, but a diversity problem too. By creating a free, immersive gaming app the Blair Project has the potential to introduce a new audience to the world of vehicle design, EV propulsion and the joy of invention. I look forward to seeing how the app develops and is deployed.”