Professor Lord Bhattacharyya, Chairman of WMG at the University of Warwick, passed away on Friday, March 1, 2019 after a short illness. He was 78. A champion of manufacturing, Lord Bhattacharyya is credited with having founded Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) at the University of Warwick, UK which is one of the world’s top applied research centres, with a reputation for academic excellence and business results spanning the globe.
Starting his career as a graduate apprentice at Lucas Industries, Lord Bhattacharyya became Britain's first ever Professor of Manufacturing. Having seen first-hand how slowly academic advances were translated into real business and social change, he founded WMG in 1980 to help business innovate and help university researchers change the industry dynamic globally.
Sir David Normington, Chair of Council and Pro-Chancellor of University of Warwick said: “Long before I joined the University of Warwick Council, I knew of Professor Lord Bhattacharyya as an adviser to successive Prime Ministers and Secretaries of State and a tireless advocate for UK manufacturing industry. Then, as Chair of Council I had the great good fortune to see close up his extraordinary commitment to University of Warwick, to Coventry and the West Midlands and to UK plc. He was a force of nature. He pushed at boundaries, he changed lives, he created jobs, and he set the standard for how universities should work with industry."
Warwick’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart Croft said: “Professor Lord Bhattacharyya served for four decades at Warwick founding and leading WMG. However his service goes far beyond this University. The achievements of WMG, particularly his own wisdom, passion, and advocacy of the importance of manufacturing, technology, research teaching, and training has helped guide regional, national and international leaders, business figures and policy makers. He has helped preserve and create jobs and transform companies, economies, and individual lives, above all in our region. We mourn the passing of a unique man but we also celebrate all that he has achieved and are thankful that those achievements will have a massive impact for years to come.”
Professor Lord Bhattacharyya was appointed a CBE in 1997 and knighted in 2003. In 2004, he was made a life peer as Baron Bhattacharyya of Moseley in the County of the West Midlands. In 2014 he was elected to the Fellowship of The Royal Society for his contribution to engineering research and education.
Key role in Tata Motors' acquisition of JLR
Professor Lord Bhattacharyya is also known to have played a key role in helping drive Tata Motors acquire Jaguar Land Rover from Ford Motor in 2008, a few months after which there was a global meltdown.
In an interview with Autocar Professional in December 2013, he had spoken about how it helps business to think long-term, how "Tata Motors kept its nerve, was able to raise funds thanks to the strength of its reputation and overall business performance, and maintained, and even accelerated, its investment in the future of JLR."
"At WMG, we have helped make manufacturing respected again. For a long time, especially in the west, the attitude to manufacturing was it was just an industry in decay, companies would shift production to wherever was cheapest and that would be that. By focussing on innovation and academia’s role in developing new solutions and products, we’ve shown that manufacturers everywhere can have a bright future. For example, a lot of the lightweighting work in automotive started with WMG, and that has been spread right around the world," he had said in the interview.
Professor Lord Bhattacharyya, who was a recipient of the prestigious Padma Bhushan in 2002 for his services to science and technology, worked in close partnership with India throughout his career. He worked with Dr Abdul Kalam, the former President of India, since Dr Kalam was director of India's Defence Research and Development Organisation.
For the past two decades years, he worked with the Confederation of Indian Industry, collaborating in the areas of hi-tech manufacturing, higher education, climate change and healthcare. He helped CII set up a dedicated Centre of Manufacturing Excellence in Training and was instrumental in establishing the Indo-British Partnership Initiative launched by the two countries in 1991, with CII as the Indian partner.
Professor Lord Bhattacharyya also supported many leading Indian automotive companies in their R&D strategies and manufacturing including leading automakers like Tata Motors, TVS Motor Co and Bharat Forge.