Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya, the founder of Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) and one of the driving forces of the Midlands manufacturing sector, has died (aged 78) after a short illness.
An academic, he founded the WMG at the University of Warwick in 1980 (www.warwick.ac.uk
); he is also widely credited with helping to bring Jaguar Land Rover under Tata ownership in 2008, which led to the company’s renaissance and a revival of the region’s automotive industry.
Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “Kumar has been a heroic figure, helping establish in Britain a world-wide reputation for excellence and innovation in advanced manufacturing.
"Through the WMG, and through his extraordinary energy and tenacity, he encouraged many firms to locate and expand in Britain. Hundreds of thousands of people in Britain owe their livelihoods to Kumar Bhattacharyya.”
Lord Bhattacharyya began his career as a graduate apprentice at Lucas before gaining an MSc and a PhD in engineering production at the University of Birmingham.
In 1980, he became Professor of Manufacturing Systems at the University of Warwick and set up WMG, which is now regarded as one of the world’s top applied research centres, combining academic excellence and global business results.
Through this organisation, Lord Bhattacharyya brokered partnerships, advised industry and governments internationally, and sat on the UK Council for Science and Technology.
He was appointed a CBE in 1997, knighted in 2003 for services to education and industry, and made a life peer in 2004.
Jonathan Browning, chairman of the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Lord Bhattacharyya was unique, and the region — in fact the whole of UK industry — owes him a huge debt.
"He achieved so much for Coventry and Warwickshire, the University of Warwick, WMG and the UK. The rescue, survival and subsequent success of Jaguar Land Rover can be traced directly back to him and the way he refused to let the company die.”
Louise Bennett, chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, added: “He has been a driving force for industry in the region and, indeed, the whole of the UK.
“His work will live on for many, many years to come, and Coventry and Warwickshire will be forever grateful for his vision, energy and drive, which have played a major part in our industrial renaissance in recent years.”
The University of Warwick said it was Professor Lord Bhattacharyya’s wish that Professor David Mullins be asked to become the acting head of WMG; he has accepted the role.