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£180m Midlands investment as government confirms funding for the energy research accelerator

£60m of Government funding for the Energy Research Accelerator confirmed by Government in the Spending Review supported by a further £120m investment by industry and universities.

  • Research will transform UK expertise in energy storage, thermal energy and energy efficiency.
  • Six Midlands Innovation Universities and the British Geological Survey welcome £180m Midlands energy research endeavour.
  • Industry investments from Blueprint, Cofely, Dearman Engines, Highview and Jaguar Land Rover.

The Government has today confirmed a £60 million capital investment in the Energy Research Accelerator (ERA). Together with private sector and university support the decision unlocks £180 million total investment in the Midlands region.

Today’s announcement has been welcomed by ERA’s leadership partnership, the six leading UK universities forming the Midlands Innovation group – The University of Warwick Aston University, The University of Birmingham, The University of Leicester, Loughborough University, The University of Nottingham - and the British Geological Survey.
The funding will create new world-class facilities in the Midlands to meet the challenges of developing affordable low-carbon energy and technologies for greater energy efficiency.

Gordon Waddington, CEO, ERA said: “Today’s announcement allows us to take the next step to accelerate the transformation of the UK energy sector and invest across the whole of the Midlands. ERA is putting the UK on the global map of energy innovation. The amount of private sector funding is a testament to the fact that this is a critical opportunity for growth and productivity in the UK.”

Based on complementary Thermal (T-ERA), Integrated Systems (I-ERA) and Geo-Energy (G-ERA) research themes, ERA brings together the best in energy research with the Midlands’ extensive industrial base. This is to develop new technologies for export and use in the UK, and support greater productivity and growth in the Midlands and wider UK.

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1. The Government’s full policy statement is available here –
The reference to ERA reads:

“The government is also investing £60 million in the proposal by six universities across the Midlands for a new Energy Research Accelerator, a major project to develop the energy technologies of the future.”
2. The Energy Research Accelerator will tackle some of the biggest energy challenges facing the UK by transforming research and development in three critical areas of energy: Thermal, Integrated Systems and Geo-Energy. The core objectives of ERA are to make better use of primary resources, bring about smarter energy systems, reduce our dependence on importing energy, enhance energy security and resilience, and help achieve the UK’s carbon reduction targets.

3. ERA is a cross-disciplinary energy research hub integrated around a clear strategic focus, market relevant outputs and fast delivery of results to industry. It will develop highly skilled people, new products and services and create internationally relevant solutions to increase productivity, drive growth and create jobs for the region and wider UK.

4. ERA is focused around three themes of energy research, identified by the world class expertise at the founding universities in terms of the research and potential economic opportunities they can bring to the UK:

  • Thermal Energy Accelerator (T-ERA): To lead the development and integration of thermal (heating and cooling) energy technologies and the global cold economy.
  • Integrated Energy Systems Accelerator (I-ERA): To deliver integrated energy solutions addressing major energy use markets – buildings and transport – through manufacturing.
  • Geo-Energy Systems Accelerator (G-ERA): Focusing on next generation gaseous related technologies including geo-energy, Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and energy storage, helping to decarbonise the energy and transport sectors.

5. University ERA programme details

The University of Warwick’s WMG are creating a National Low Carbon Mobility Centre, serving the automotive, commercial, off road, marine and rail sectors by the development of enabling technologies in energy storage and energy machines, drives and systems. One example of the University of Warwick’s expertise in this field is WMG’s national advanced energy storage facility which provides capability to validate new battery chemistry; it enables the rapid characterisation of battery cells, the ability to test up to 1000 Amps, and to expose to extreme vibration, crush and penetration. Sponsored, by the UK’s Automotive Council, it is the only one of its kind in the UK. University of Warwick researchers will also be assisting on a project to deliver smaller heat pumps to replace today’s domestic boilers.

Aston University’s European Bioenergy Research Institute (EBRI) will lead the ‘5BIO scheme’. It will stimulate innovation and knowledge transfer between businesses, scientists and chemical engineers across renewable biomass, biorefining, bioenergy, biofuels and bio-products. EBRI’s current facilities include a demonstration power plant, thermal processors, and laboratories which allow companies to explore and develop practical bioenergy solutions. EBRI is already developing technologies for business that are capable of turning organic waste products such as sewage sludge, garden and crop waste into heat, power and electrical sources.

The University of Birmingham will accelerate its research in thermal energy including extending its work related to the Birmingham Centre for Cryogenic Energy Storage. ERA will catalyse new research activity with partners such as Cofely around areas of thermal energy storage and exploitation of waste heat. In collaboration with Loughborough and the Manufacturing Technology Centre, Birmingham will establish an Advanced Thermal Manufacturing Centre (ATMC) to allow the production of a range of thermal energy technologies. Birmingham will also work with range of partners, including Dearman, to deliver innovative technologies to market and with Birmingham City Council to ensure maximum impact for the city.

The University of Leicester’s atmospheric chemistry and Earth observation science group, led by Professor Paul Monks, will be involved in developing above and below-ground innovative monitoring of volatile organic compound (VOC) gas emissions. A suite of instrumentation is proposed to develop down-hole gas monitoring probe, small sensor emissions array and VOC fingerprinting from unconventional reservoirs. Professor Karl Ryder and colleagues, from the Materials Centre, will be leading in the areas of battery material technologies and new electrolyte chemistries to address several key technological challenges aligned with battery performance, safety of battery technology and increase of power/energy density by reducing the mass of the components.

Loughborough University will draw on its expertise in engine and powertrain systems, energy systems, and advanced manufacturing technologies for small, medium and large-scale manufacturers to drive research into cold energy technology and support the UK’s ambition to drive the global market for cooling.

The University of Nottingham will accelerate its research into geo-energy systems as well as lead delivery of the Trent Basin Demonstrator. A new Research Acceleration and Demonstration Centre will develop: the next generation of carbon capture materials; a novel hydrogen systems test bed to explore its deployment in large scale energy storage; facilities to maximise potential of compressed gas for energy storage; and a Geo-Energy Testbed to drive innovation in subsurface energy sector. Trent Basin will see the creation of a 240 home Community Energy Demonstrator where the function and benefits of new ways of delivering energy to consumers will be tested.

25 November 2015


Peter Dunn, Director of Press and Policy, University of Warwick

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