Select Committee on Science and Technology Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


APPENDIX 52

Supplementary memorandum submitted by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS FROM THE COMMITTEE

Question 1:  "You said you spend around £9 million a year on low and non-carbon energy technology research. In addition, how much of your spending on blue-skies research may have energy applications? The Committee appreciates the difficulties involved but would value an estimate. Some examples of the kinds of research that fall into this category would be valuable"

  The data requested is provided in Tables 1 and 2 below, but first it is necessary to provide some contextual information to enable the nature of the data to be appreciated.

  EPSRC's evidence to the Committee for this inquiry was formulated using a key word search of our current grants database. The figures for grants expenditure quoted in our evidence represent our best estimate of the research grants which are directly relevant to the scope of the inquiry. However, the nature of our research portfolio is such that there is also a relatively large number of additional research grants which, while perhaps "blue skies" in nature, are potentially relevant to low or zero-carbon energy technology.

  EPSRC considers "blue-skies" research to be a pivotal part of the portfolio if we are to fulfil our mission "to promote and support high-quality basic, strategic and applied research" in engineering and the physical sciences. The "blue skies" elements of research comprise technologies that, although having no immediate commercial outlet, may prove to be revolutionary. Blue skies research may therefore be described as basic research.

  Basic research is experimental or theoretical work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge of the underlying foundation of phenomena and observable facts, without any particular application or use in view.

  Experimental development is systematic work, drawing on existing knowledge gained from research and/or practical experience that is directed to producing new materials, products or devices, to installing new processes, systems and services, or to improving substantially those already produced or installed.

  The majority of the grants identified by EPSRC in our original evidence to the inquiry would be considered to be in the experimental development category under these definitions. However, in some fields of renewable research such as photovoltaics, fuel cells or hydrogen storage, there is more scope to undertake science-based, basic research. In order to answer the question posed by the Committee, it is necessary to identify those research activities that fall into the basic research category where the relevance to energy research is perhaps secondary or indirect. These areas of research may include underpinning research in physics, chemistry or materials science.

  In attempting to estimate the value of our investment in blues skies research relevant to energy, we have adopted the approach of identifying those areas of research that appear most likely to be exploited in the energy field. All EPSRC research grants are classified under one or more of approximately 150 research topics that are based broadly on areas of scientific or engineering endeavour. We have identified 11 research topics that appear to have a direct relevance to energy research that are listed in Table 2. We have also identified a further seven research topics which have indirect relevance to energy research that are listed in Table 3. Using the research topics in Tables 2 and 3, it is possible to present two estimates of EPSRC's current investment in blue skies research with possible energy applications. The first estimate, which is based on those research topics that we feel are highly relevant to energy research (Table 2) may contain some research grants that are of only peripheral relevance to the scope of the inquiry. The second estimate, which is based on the research topics we have identified as bring of both direct and indirect relevance to energy research (Tables 2 and 3), is likely to include research grants which have limited or no relevance to the scope of the inquiry, at least at this stage of the development cycle.

Table 1

ESTIMATE OF BLUE SKIES RESEARCH WITH POSSIBLE ENERGY APPLICATIONS AND THE RESULTING EXPENDITURE IN 2002-03


Basis of Estimate
Value of Grant Portfolio
Grant Expenditure in 2002-03

Directly relevant research topics
(Table 2)
£38.6M
£12.4M
Directly and indirectly relevant research topics
(Tables 2 and 3)
£158.6M
£ 68.2M


Table 2

RESEARCH TOPICS WITH DIRECT RELEVANCE TO ENERGY RESEARCH


Research Topic
Definition
Current Grants (Number)
Current Grants (Value)

Coal TechnologyThe handling, characteristics and properties of coal, including liquefaction, gasification and pyrolysis for power generation.
9
£0.3M
CombustionMechanisms in combustion processes and fossil fuel combustion for power generation using liquid and gaseous fuels.
71
£7.5M
Electrical Motors and DrivesThe design, manufacture and operation of electromechanical systems, devices, drives and controls for rotating machines.
27
£4.9M
Electricity Generation, RenewableAll forms of renewable power generation, including the design and development of technologies associated with renewables.
88
£7.9M
Electricity Generation, ConventionalPower plant and power generation by fossil fuels including monitoring, design and operation.
6
£0.7M
Electricity Generation, NuclearResearch into the operation and plant for nuclear fission power generation including materials studies and waste treatment.
6
£0.3M
Electrochemistry and Electrochemical Engineering Includes fuel cell development and research including chemical reactions of anions, cations and electrolytes.
63
£7.9M
ElectromagneticsElectromagnetism and electromagnetic interactions in materials and devices including electromagnetic compatibility
19
£3.9M
Power ElectronicsThe fabrication and engineering of circuits for high power or high voltage applications
23
£2.5M
Power Systems: Management, Operation and Control The control, protection and monitoring of transmission and distribution systems.
27
£2.0M
Power Systems: PlantThe design and development of new and existing plant for electricity transmission, distribution and storage.
10
£0.7M


Table 3

EXAMPLES OF RESEARCH TOPICS WITH SECONDARY OR INDIRECT RELEVANCE TO ENERGY RESEARCH


Research Topic
Definition
Current Grants (Number)
Current Grants (Value)

AerodynamicsThe study of airflow around structures or components including studies into gas turbines, blades, compressors etc.
71
£8.6M
Catalysis and Applied CatalysisUnderstanding the mechanisms involved in catalytic reactions, preparation of new or improved catalysts or catalytic processes.
155
£20.0M
Electronic Debices and SubsystemsNew and improved electronic devices and circuits including their design, modelling, fabrication and processing
99
£20.1M
Functional Ceramic and Inorganic Materials Includes the synthesis and growth, characterisation and processing of such materials including glasses, ionic materials, electro-ceramics and zeolites.
181
£17.1M
Functional Organic and Polymer Materials Includes the synthesis and growth, characterisation and processing of such materials including dyes, liquid crystals, ferro-electric and dielectric polymer materials.
216
£17.2M
Inorganic Semiconductor MaterialsIncludes the synthesis and growth, characterisation and processing of III-V, II-VI and Group IV semiconductor materials.
205
£22.0M
Optoelectronic Devices and CircuitsSemiconductor-based devices including solid-state lasers, LEDs, quantum dots, wires and wells
104
£15.0M


Question 2:  How much of your research funding for renewables is through responsive mode and how much is through managed?

  First we note that across the whole of EPSRC's remit some 62% of research funding is via pure responsive mode, with the remainder through more closely directed or "managed" programmes. In this particular area there is, consciously, a greater emphasis placed on the directed/managed mode.

  The breakdown of the grant funding presented in our original evidence in terms of the percentage of those grants that were funded in the responsive and managed modes is at Table 4.

Table 4

BREAKDOWN OF GRANTS FUNDED IN THE RESPONSIVE AND MANAGED MODES IN THE INITIAL EVIDENCE PROVIDED


Technology
% Managed
by value
% Responsive
by value

Biofuel
100
0
Biomass
96.1
3.9
CHP
100
0
CO2 seq'n
100
0
Fuel Cells
83.6
16.4
Geothermal
0
100
Hydrogen
63.8
36.2
PV
51.3
48.7
Nuclear
77
23.0
Wave and Tidal
73.8
26.2
Wind
64.9
35.1
Waste
44.5
55.5
Conventional
51.3
48.7


  Overall, current grants as at December 2002 in renewables are supported through 69% Managed mode and 31% Responsive mode.

Question 3:  "What is the application success rate for managed and the responsive mode in the last financial year for renewable energy research for each of the main EPSRC Programmes?"

  An analysis of the success rates of grants classified under the renewable energy research topic, subdivided by EPSRC Programme area, is at Table 5. The success rates shown compare very favourably with the EPSRC average success rates for the same period, suggesting that renewable energy projects compete very effectively in the responsive mode. The Programme areas listed were the only Programmes that considered proposals classified under this research topic in the period concerned.

Table 5

SUCCESS RATES OF GRANTS CLASSIFIED UNDER THE RENEWABLE ENERGY RESEARCH TOPIC


Programme Area
Responsive Mode
Managed Mode
Funded
Not funded
Success rate (%)
Funded
Not funded
Success rate (%)

Engineering
6
6
50
0
0
Infrastructure and Environment
1
0
100
18
20
47
Information and Communications Technology
1
0
100
0
0
Materials
1
1
50
0
2
0
Total Renewables
9
7
56.25
18
22
45


Question 4:  "Can you supply a full list of companies involved in EPSRC's renewable energy projects?"

  EPSRC can provide the following list of industrial stakeholders involved with current grants in renewable energy (Table 6). These companies provide cash and/or in-kind contributions in support of the EPSRC-funded research.

Table 6

LIST OF INDUSTRIAL STAKEHOLDERS INVOLVED WITH CURRENT GRANTS IN RENEWABLE ENERGY


Organisation Name

A M P of Great Britain LtdIntersolar Group Plc
Alstom Energy Technology CENInveresk Plc
Antec GmbhIpsa Power Engineering
ARUP Consulting EngineersJ L S Designs Ltd
Atkins,W S,PlcJohnson Matthey plc
Avecia HQKier Construction Ltd
B D S P PartnershipLeicester City Council
B P Solar LtdLocal Government Association
B9 Energy LtdMandix
BG Technology plcMarconi Applied Technology
BMW GroupMarine Current Turbines Ltd
BNFLMicromeritics Ltd
BOC LtdMilbury Systems
Border Wind LtdMinistry of Defence
BPMitsui Babcock Energy Services (Overseas)
British Biogen LtdNational Grid Company
BTG—Biomass Technology GroupNational Power
C J Day AssociatesNational Wind Power Ltd
Cambridge Display Technology LtdNEG Micon
Conoco (UK) LtdNEG Micon (UK) Ltd
DeltaDOT LtdNorthern Ireland Electricity
Dera MalvernNottinghamshire County Council
E A Technology LtdPolybiomed Ltd
East Midlands Electricity LtdPowergen U K Plc
East of Scotland WaterRolls Royce plc
Edinburgh DesignsRural Generation Ltd
EEV LtdRVco Ltd
Energy Power Resources LtdScottish Power Plc
Energy Saving Trust Ltd (The)Scottish Power Technology
Epichem LtdSheffield Heat & Power Ltd
ETSU (Oxford)Shropshire County Council
FumatechSollatek (U K) Ltd
Garrad Hassan & Partners LtdSolvay SA
Greater London AuthorityTechnical University—Denmark
I T Power LtdThales Space Technology
ICI C+P LtdUK Energy From Waste Assoc
Improvement & Development Agency for Loc Unit Energy Ltd
InforSense LtdUniversity of California
Infoterra LtdVegla
InfumaTechWafer Technology Ltd
Innogy plcWellman Process Engineering
Innogy Technology Ventures LtdWhitby Bird and Partners


Question 5:  "Can you supply the number of PhD and MScs funded in renewable energy for the last financial year"

  The major mechanism that EPSRC uses to support PhD training in Universities is the Doctoral Training Account (DTA). DTAs are a cash award to research-active University Department calculated on the basis of their current EPSRC research grant income. The departments concerned have considerable flexibility to select the subject of the research of the students supported by the DTA. Universities are required to submit an annual statement on the students supported through their DTA at the end of each Calendar year including a report on the students that have started in the past academic year. The reports for the October 2001-September 2002 academic year have yet to be collated and as a result, our information on new studentships supported in the last financial year (April 2001-March 2002) is largely incomplete. Complete information can be provided at a later date if still required.

  We have provided supplementary information on the postgraduate students employed on the renewable energy grants identified in the evidence. These studentships are in addition to those quoted in the evidence that were funded through our PhD quota system. The figures for the number of PhD studentships supported by EPSRC in renewable energy research is at Table 7.

Table 7

NUMBER OF PHD STUDENTSHIPS SUPPORTED BY EPSRC IN RENEWABLE ENERGY RESEARCH


Academic Year
Project
studentships
Quota PhD
studentships
Total PhD
Studentships

1998-99
7
12
19
1999-2000
16
28
44
2000-01
16
45
61
2001-02
13
19
31
2002-03
5
Unknown
Unknown


  EPSRC considers that there is considerable scope to increase training provision in this area as part of a wider activity to strengthen the research base as proposed under the "Towards a Sustainable Energy Economy" SR2002 bid and the proposed development of the National Energy Research Centre. EPSRC will be conducting a review of education and training support in the next few months as part of the development of our energy research and training portfolio.

January 2003



 
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