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EPSRC reveals leaders for sustainable energy research

Three leaders have been identified for the next phase of the UK’s Supergen Programme – to design research ‘hubs’ that will investigate sustainable energy technology.

They received six-month grants (see below) to build consortia, investigate research strategies, devise networking plans and device engagement plans for their fields, according to the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), which manages Supergen.

If they are successful at a second stage in 2018, they will each be awarded £5m to establish the hubs.

The Supergen Leaders are:
Bioenergy – Professor Patricia Thornley, University of Manchester
Energy networks – Professor Phil Taylor, Newcastle University
Offshore renewable energy – Professor Deborah Greaves, University of Plymouth
“The leader-led approach to this call has been introduced after an independent review of the Supergen Programme recommended that principal investigators or directors should be enabled to act as strategic and thought leaders to provide direction and sign-posting research for users,” said EPSRC.

Supergen Bioenergy Hub – Thornley, £150,783 grant.

Will bring together a network of academic, industrial and policy stakeholders to address the technical and engineering barriers to sustainable bioenergy systems.

Bioenergy is energy from plants, trees and other material that has recently sequestered carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which can be utilised with efficient conversion technologies to produce low carbon energy.

The project will look to maximise the environmental benefits of sustainable bioenergy, and lead to an integrated, multi-disciplinary proposal for the future of bioenergy research in the UK and the development of a community network to focus on sustainable development.

Supergen Energy Networks Hub – Taylor, £149,944 grant.

To establish an energy networks community with a deeper understanding of whole-systems approaches to energy networks. “Despite their vital importance to the UK’s energy sector, industry and society, there is no current whole-systems approach to studying the interconnected and interdependent nature of energy network infrastructure, and the challenges it faces,” said EPSRC.

Will integrate a wide range of stakeholders while complementing national and international investments in energy networks, with the hub designed to allow all stakeholders to fully exploit opportunities in the sector.

Supergen Offshore Renewable Energy Hub – Greaves, £147,890 grant

To bring together the related research areas of wave, tidal and offshore wind in order to share skills, resources and expertise across off-shore renewable energy. “This approach is designed to maintain the UK’s leading position in this field and address technical, environmental and interdisciplinary challenges which require a coordinated response at national and regional level”, said EPSRC.

Aims to sharing of best practice, exploit synergy, and support equality and diversity and early career researcher development to develop research leaders.

    Supergen was set up in 2001 to research on sustainable power generation and supply, focusing on:
  • bioenergy
  • energy networks
  • energy storage
  • fuel cells
  • hydrogen and other vectors
  • marine, wave and tidal
  • solar technology
  • wind power

EPSRC has supported seven Supergen hubs with £150m over the last five years (including calls and centres for doctoral training, said the research council).

“The initiative has led to the development of new tools and technologies, such as pre-treatment technologies for emission reduction in bioenergy; greater collaboration between academia, government and industry; the creation of new strategies and innovation programmes, such as in CHP fuel cells; and provided an opportunity for international collaboration,” said EPSRC.

The new hubs will get additional support from:
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (bioenergy)
Natural Environment Research Council (offshore renewable energy)
Economic and Social Research Council (technical and people aspects of all three proposed hubs)