The University of Birmingham is set to play a crucial role in the next step towards the transformation of the UK’s energy sector after the Government confirmed £60m investment for the Energy Research Accelerator (ERA). The investment is backed by a further £120 million from the private sector and Midlands Innovation universities.
Professor Martin Freer, Director of the University of Birmingham’s Energy Institute, said:
‘The investment through ERA is a significant vote of confidence in the capability that the Midlands has in energy research and is the kind of injection required to ensure the UK continues to develop both leadership in thermal energy technology, but also to catalyse growth and jobs in a sector which is set to grow significantly over the coming years as countries wrestle with the challenges around demand for cooling and heating.’
ERA is set to become a world-leading hub of energy talent, technology research, development and deployment, based on the internationally renowned academic expertise and industrial heritage of the Midlands. Industry investors include Blueprint, Cofely, Dearman Engines, Highview and Jaguar Land Rover.
The announcement is a milestone for Birmingham who will now work in partnership with the five other leading UK universities forming the Midlands Innovation group – Aston University, the University of Leicester, Loughborough University, the University of Nottingham, the University of Warwick – and the British Geological Survey.
The funding will create new world-class facilities to meet the challenges of developing affordable low-carbon energy and technologies for greater energy efficiency. The initiative will bring together the best in energy research and build upon the Midlands’ extensive industrial base.
ERA’s research will be focused on the complementary Thermal (T-ERA), Integrated Systems (I-ERA) and Geo-Energy (G-ERA) research themes.
The University of Birmingham will accelerate its research in thermal energy including extending its work related to the Birmingham Centre for Cryogenic Energy Storage. It 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 and will also work with a range of partners, including Dearman, to deliver innovative technologies to market and with Birmingham City Council to ensure maximum impact for the city.
Gordon Waddington, ERA CEO, added:
‘This announcement by the Government 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.’
Toby Peters, Chief Executive of Dearman and Chair in Power and Cold Economy at the University of Birmingham said:
‘ERA has the potential to be a game changer for UK energy research, for the future of cutting edge British technologies and for our capacity to export them around the world. In particular, ERA recognises the vital role that cooling plays in today’s energy mix and in growing global energy demand. We have a unique opportunity to develop the technologies the world needs, to commercialise them and to establish the skills we need to manufacture them. ERA will play a crucial role in delivering this ambitious goal and the Government has shown genuine foresight in making it a reality.’