Select Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Written Evidence

Memorandum 62

Submission from the Midlands Energy Consortium (Birmingham, Loughborough and Nottingham universities)


  1.  The Midlands Energy Consortium comprises the University of Birmingham, Loughborough University and the University of Nottingham. The Consortium brings together three world-class partners, all with extensive and complementary energy related research activities. The Consortium provides the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) with unmatched strength and connectivity, and uniquely the East Midlands Development Agency together with Advantage West Midlands has combined to provide significant financial and strategic support. As a consequence of these factors and the consortium's ability to support the rapid deployment of cost-effective low carbon technologies, it was successful in its bid to host the ETI.

  2.  The Consortium offers an outstanding hub location at Loughborough University's Science and Enterprise Park that combines exceptional accessibility; close embedding in an existing concentration of low-carbon and energy research, development and demonstration (RD&D); a superb parkland setting; excellent options for expansion and future growth; and the opportunity to achieve "whole-site branding". The hub occupies an attractive energy-efficient building that will itself be a demonstrator of retrofit technologies, and where the ETI hub can grow to full complement without the further disruption of re-location. The Consortium and the hub are ideally located at the heart of the UK, served by excellent communications networks, away from high costs and congestion, and close to major sites of ETI's key industrial sponsors.

  3.  ETI will be able to draw on the strength and connectivity of the Consortium's broad research base, which is underpinned with extensive industrial collaborations and strong international networks. The Consortium has:

    —  An extensive energy research activity including 200 academics and current external funding of £73 million, with collaborations already in place across institutional, sector and technological boundaries.

    —  A commitment to appoint a manager for the Midlands Consortium to manage the interface with ETI.

    —  An outreach and network capability with other researchers that extends nationally and internationally and that will enable ETI to "reach"wider, further, faster and more deeply into the RD&D community.

    —  An industrially-connected academic community, of mixed disciplines, across the Consortium, which can work with ETI staff to contribute creatively and imaginatively to the R&D commissioning process.

  4.  The role of ETI will be to lead the UK's efforts in establishing a low-carbon economy based on a secure, affordable supply of energy, a significant proportion of which will come from sustainable sources. Key to these efforts will be applied research into, and development of, excellent and innovative technologies that are designed to harness and utilise renewable energy. Such technologies may be found in all parts of the energy value chain, from generation and production through to transmission and distribution, storage and consumption. The ETI's activities will therefore focus on ensuring commercial viability, via development and demonstration projects involving a variety of public and private-sector stakeholders, both in the UK and overseas.


  5.  The Midlands Energy Consortium (MC) is pleased to respond to the House of Commons IUS Select Committee's Inquiry into Renewable Electricity-Generation Technologies. These comments have been compiled with the assistance of staff at each of the three universities that constitute the MC, under the co-ordination of Peter Townsend, Director of the Research Office at Loughborough University.

  6.  This response concentrates on the hosting by the MC of the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI). The Government has pledged support for the ETI for a period of at least ten years, as part of a public-private partnership involving leading companies such as BP, Caterpillar, EDF Energy, E.ON UK, Rolls-Royce and Shell. The initial investment is the order of £1 billion.

  7.  The ETI, which is based at Loughborough University, commenced its operations on 17 December 2007 with an invitation for Expressions of Interest (EoIs) to participate in research programmes to develop new technologies for renewable energy. The first such programmes will be in the areas of offshore wind and marine (wave, tidal) energy. It is envisaged that projects to be supported under these programmes will commence in the autumn of 2008.


  8.  The ETI is hosted by the Midlands Consortium, chosen on 20 September 2007 by the ETI Board as the strongest bidder from a short-list of five. The strength of the MC's bid rests on the fact that it has an unparalleled concentration of world-class capabilities in low-carbon energy research and technology across the ETI's seven themes. The Consortium's extensive engagement with large corporate and SME industries led to a combined industrial research income in excess of £22 million in 2005-06. This includes involvement in the E.ON UK—EPSRC research partnership, three Rolls-Royce University Technology Centres, the Shell Centre for Pavement Engineering and collaborative research with more than 200 energy-related companies. The MC works with many leading centres of energy research internationally. Its long-term track record and commitment to energy research and development is illustrated by the combined total of 450 externally-funded projects across the seven ETI themes, with a value exceeding £73 million and involving more than 200 academic staff.

  9.  The Consortium works with industry and policy-makers, addressing challenges in the quest for a sustainable future. High-level commitment adds value to the direction, relevance and impact of its research. Examples include:

    —  Prof Michael Sterling (Prime Minister's Council for Science & Technology);

    —  Prof Martyn Poliakoff FRS (Royal Society Working Party on the utilisation of biofuels);

    —  Prof Dennis Loveday (E.ON/RAEng Chair in Low Carbon Energy Technology);

    —  Prof Kevin Kendall FRS (Grove Committee on Fuel Cells);

    —  Prof Dave Garner FRS (External Relations Board, Royal Society of Chemistry); and

    —  Prof Sir Colin Campbell (UK China Task Force).

  10.  The MC exhibits a strong track record of entrepreneurial drive, technology transfer, and exploitation capabilities. Achievements include:

    —  Queen's Awards for Enterprise (International Trade)—development of international campuses and tech transfer;

    —  HEIF-funded International Innovation Exchange (IXC);

    —  Partners in BioCity, Europe's largest bio-incubator;

    —  The Queen's Anniversary Prize for Development Engineering, sustainable infrastructure for the world's poorest people; and

    —  Spinning-out its research, including companies such as Intelligent Energy, IMPT and Adelan.

  11.  The MC has an established track record and long-term commitment to energy research, development and demonstration (RD&D). Each of the Consortium's three Universities has integrated its energy research through the formation of important new internal organisations:

    —  The Institute for Energy Research and Policy (Birmingham).

    —  The Sustainability Research School (Loughborough).

    —  The Energy Technologies Research Institute (Nottingham).

  Each is led by a Director, who provides co-ordination for all energy-related research within each University, and facilitates multi-disciplinary team-working. There is extensive external networking through the individual members, and the Directors are in regular contact and collaboration on matters of joint interest.

  12.  The Consortium's combined expertise is comprehensive, fully spans the ETI themes and beyond, and encompasses energy supply (conventional and renewable), its consumption by the built environment, transport and manufacturing, and wider aspects including societal, business, economics, infrastructure, social sciences and policy. Within each University, infrastructure is embedded to promote development, demonstration and deployment of suitable research outcomes, including patenting, publicity, development of funding opportunities, incubation and spin-out company facilities.

  13.  The Consortium possesses an impressive inventory of facilities and equipment that underpin its energy RD&D, supplemented by significant on-going investment. Examples include the new £2 million photovoltaics manufacturing laboratory (opened 2006); a £3 million world-class engine testing facility; a new £1.5 million fuel cells laboratory; and over £2 million investment to establish world-leading laboratories in industrial-scale microwave processing, hydrogen storage and carbon capture. Demonstration facilities include a unique series of creative energy dwellings and an instrumented house for testing retrofit domestic energy, metering and control technologies.

  14.  The Consortium has a long and extensive history of collaboration, networking and leadership. The MC's respective inter-disciplinary bodies—Loughborough's Sustainability Research School, Nottingham's Energy Technologies Research Institute, and Birmingham's Institute for Energy Research and Policy—demonstrate its commitment to inter-disciplinary and cross-School collaboration in the energy field. Birmingham, Loughborough and Nottingham collaborate on numerous activities, including major energy projects such as the Energy and Environment centre of excellence as part of the EU Rail Research Network of Excellence (EURNEX); several Supergen consortia; the Environmentally Friendly Engine project; and the E.ON Academic Advisory Council. Each university also belongs to a body that co-ordinates co-operation between Higher Education Institutions in its region: the East Midlands Universities Association (Nottingham and Loughborough) and the West Midlands Higher Educational Authority (Birmingham).

  15.  Nationally, the Consortium provides leadership in collaboration, networking and policy formation for numerous activities, including the Sustainable Design Network, Low Carbon and Fuel Cells KTN, two Innovative Manufacturing Research Centres and the £7 million EPSRC-funded National Railway Project.

  16.  Internationally the Consortium has two members of Universitas 21—a network of leading research-intensive universities in twelve countries. The University of Nottingham was the first foreign university to establish a campus in China, which includes the Centre for Sustainable Energy Technologies at Ningbo. Consortium members provide leading roles for various international activities such as: American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (50,000 members); EU €63 million Airbus Project; European Construction Institute; EU EURNEX's centre of excellence for Energy and Environment; and the UK Government's China Task Force.

  17.  Other significant international collaboration includes EU projects for energy-related research currently worth £12.7 million. This includes involvement in twelve projects of the Research Fund for Coal & Steel since 2001 (of which five have been co-ordinated within the Consortium), Solid Oxide Fuel Cell research with 26 partners, and Superconductor research under a Specific Targeted Research Project STREP with 13 partners. Beyond the EU, the MC is involved in the International Energy Agency Hydrogen Implementing Agreement (IEA/HIA) activities involving 43 partner institutions in 15 countries and the International Partnership for Hydrogen Energy (IPHE) activities involving eight partners in New Zealand, Singapore, UK and the USA.

  18.  In the table below (Table 1) we show the number and value of current grants held by the Consortium across the Pseven ETI themes and list key examples of research activity, leaders, sponsors and collaborators:

Table 1


ETI Theme
Key research activities and examples of track record
(B: Birmingham, L: Loughborough, N: Nottingham)
1: Key research leaders; 2: Key sponsors and collaborators;
3: Funding portfolio

Large scale energy supply technologies
Clean coal technology, IGCC and carbon capture and storage technologies (N): includes 8 EU Coal & Steel projects involving the major European research organisations and companies in the field, three projects coordinated (€4.5 million).
Plant life extension (B, L, N): materials for extended life turbines conventional power plant lifetime extension; (Supergen £2.1 million,
L lead). EU sponsored programmes include VITAL and WELDON. Economics of the electricity industry (B): Supergen Future Network Consortium
1.  Richard Green, Tom Hyde (FREng), John Knott (FRS), Jonathan Seville (FREng), Colin Snape (2006 Storch award), Rachel Thomson; 2.  Alstom, BNFL, CESI (Italy), Chromealloy UK Ltd, Corus, CSIC (Spain), CSM (Italy), Doosan Babcock, Elcogas, ENSA (Spain), E.ON, EPSRC, ESRC, EU, Howmet Castings, NPL, QinetiQ, Rolls-Royce, RWE npower, Siemens, Siempelkamp (Germany); 3.  45 grants and contracts, total value £5.6 million.
Energy security of supply
Hydrogen (B, N): UK Sustainable Hydrogen Economy Consortium (£3.5 million Supergen). Fuel Cells, batteries and supercapacitors (N): inc Fuel Cell Supergen; Photovoltaic (L, N): manufacturing and materials. Wind (N): load structure, offshore grid control and energy storage;
Bioenergy (B) from waste/biological production of hydrogen.
1.  Jan Baeyens, Kwang-Leong Choy (FIMM), Lynne Macaskie, Martin Schroder (RS Wolfson Research Merit Award Holder); 2.  Areva, Ceres Power, Converteam, dstl, DTI, EPSRC, EU, Johnson Matthew, Opel/GM, Rolls-Royce, Rolls-Royce Fuel Cell Systems Ltd, Thomas Swann; 3.  47 grants and contracts, total value £6.0 million.
End-use efficiency/demand management
Energy efficiency in the built environment (B, L, N): demonstrator Eco-houses; policy for sustainable urban regeneration; £2.5 million Creative Energy Dwellings project; Energy Globe Award and Euro Solar Award for sustainable buildings project.
Sustainable design & energy reduction in industrial processes (L, N): microwave grinding of rock Superconductors (B): National Crystal Growth Facility for Superconducting Oxides
Electrical energy efficiency (N) inc two EPSRC platform grants related to industrial process (£620k)
1.  Stuart Abell, Greg Asher (FIEEE), Sam Kingman (UK Medal of Excellence), Dennis Loveday (E.ON/RAEng Chair in Low Carbon Energy Technology), Saffa Riffat, Rupert Soar; 2.  ASHRAE, Carbon Trust, CIBA, Defra, DTI, emda, E.ON, EPS, EPSRC, ESRC, EU, Glen Dimplex, Kingspan, Monodraught, NuAire, Pilkington, Rio Tinto, Roger Bullivant, Thermacore, ZedFactory; 3.  87 grants and contracts, total value £11.8 million.
Energy efficient aeronautical and automotive technologies (B, L, N): 4 Rolls-Royce UTCs; Smiths Aerospace UTSP; DTI industry-led Environmentally friendly engine collaboration (£30 million); MOET: Airbus- led electric aircraft programme (€63 million, N: UK lead); Emissions reduction and novel engine technologies; EU Rail Research Network of Excellence (EURNEX) (B lead, involving 60 institutions throughout EU); Transport systems, policy and planning (L): Demand responsive transport systems, noise analysis
1.  Paul Bowen (FREng), Jon Clare, Colin Garner (Caterpillar/RAEng Chair, FIMechE), Jim McGuirk (FRAeS, FREng), Paul Shayler (Ford Chair), Miroslaw Wyszynski; 2.  Airbus, BAA, BAE Systems, Boeing, Caterpillar, Converteam, DfT, DTI, EPSRC, EU, Ford, Jaguar, Lister-Petter, Lotus, MOD, Qinetiq, Rolls-Royce, Shell, Smiths Aerospace, Tyndall Centre; 3.  191 grants and contracts, total value £29.4 million.
Small scale energy supply technologies
Wind energy technologies (L, N) inc composites for turbine blades;
Energy from biomass (N) use of brewing waste;
Domestic CHP (N) small scale biomass-fired CHP system;
Fuel cells (B, L) materials and durability, supply chain for fuel cell production;
Photovoltaic solar cells and solar technologies (L, N) in the built environment;
Supercritical fluid technology (N) for sustainable chemical manufacture and materials processing, including renewable feedstocks. Includes DICE: £3.5 million Science and Innovation award.
1.  Matt Boreland, Ralph Gottschalg, Kevin Kendall (FRS), Andrew Long (FIMechE, FIMMM, Rosenhain Medal), Martyn Poliakoff (FRS); 2.  Advantage West Midlands, Baxi, BP Solar, DTI, EPSRC, EU, ICP Solar Technologies, Intelligent Energy, NERC, Rolls-Royce, RRFCS, Unilever Bestfoods UK; 3.  30 grants and contracts, total value £11.2 million.
Supporting infrastructure
Pipeline technologies (B, L): Safe Network distribution of hydrogen NATURALHY EU Consortium; trenchless tunnelling methods and offshore electricity cables; nanotechnology pipeline sensors; Electrical energy conversion technologies (N) FP6 UNIFLEX for future European AC grid (€2 million N lead) and two supporting EPSRC Platform grants (£620k);
Highly distributed power systems (L) £2.6 million Supergen (L Lead);
Electrical distribution systems (B): Artificial intelligence and other modelling applications.
1.  Christos Christopoulos (FIEEE), Geoff Hankinson (Advantica/RAEng Chair in Pipeline Technology, FIMechE), Mark Johnson, Michael Negnevitsky, Chris Rogers; 2.  ABB, Areva, Econnect, EDF Energy, EPSRC, EU, Newage, Scottish Power, Rolls-Royce, UK Water Industry Research; 3.  31 grants and contracts, total value £7.3 million.
Alleviating energy poverty
Renewable energy technology transfer (N): EU-India network (RENET) (N Lead)
Economic, social and infrastructure issues (B, L, N) in collaboration with developing countries, which has been gained predominantly in the field of water engineering, desalination processes and on the economic regulation of network industries.
Globalisation and economic policy (N) Leverhulme funded with a China Programme (£1.5 million).
1.  Andrew Cotton, David Greenaway, Nidal Hilal (2005 Kuwait Prize: Applied Science for Water Resource Development), Mohammed Sohail; 2.  British Council, DfID, E.ON, EPSRC, EU, ITC, Middle East Desalination Research Centre, UK Commonwealth Secretariat, Wateraid West Africa, World Bank, World Health Organisation, 3.  25 grants and contracts, total value £1.7 million.


  19.  The purpose of ETI is to lead the UK's efforts in establishing a low-carbon economy based on a secure, affordable supply of energy, a significant proportion of which will come from sustainable sources. Key to these efforts will be applied research into, and development of, excellent and innovative technologies that are designed to harness and utilise renewable energy. Such technologies may be found in all parts of the energy value chain, from generation and production through to transmission and distribution, storage and consumption. The ETI's activities will therefore focus on ensuring commercial viability, via development and demonstration projects involving a variety of public and private-sector stakeholders, both in the UK and overseas.

  20.  As host for ETI, the MC will be able to assist ETI in fulfilling its role by working closely with Dr. David Clarke, its Chief Executive, and his team to achieve ETI's targets for the first year and beyond. Specifically, the MC will assist ETI as it establishes its key staff (some 50 people by end 2008) at Loughborough, and as it launches new programmes to develop collaborative partnerships for the demonstration of innovative energy technologies. This process will be facilitated by the appointment of a dedicated Consortium Manager to serve as the MC's main point of contact with Dr. Clarke, his Strategy Delivery Team and other members of ETI. The Consortium Manager will be a senior post with a reporting line to all three universities. He/she will facilitate all interactions between the MC and ETI, and manage the interface between ETI and the MC Steering Group, established by the partners to govern the activities of the MC. The Steering Group is chaired by a Vice-Chancellor, and meets on a quarterly basis in order to explore and broker every possible opportunity for the Consortium to support the work of ETI.

  21.  In addition to the Consortium Manager, the MC plans to invest in further academic leadership in renewable energy technologies by the appointment of an `ETI Chair' in a relevant discipline at each university. The partners' world-class expertise in each of the ETI's thematic priority areas, as described above, will enable the recruitment of internationally-leading academics to fill these Chairs.

  22.  Finally, the MC will offer the ETI team freedom of access to its academic staff, and the wider circles of company, university and other public sector contacts with whom they interact. These circles extend internationally, and are likely to be valuable to ETI, both in shaping its technology delivery strategy, and in the commissioning and implementation of world-leading development and demonstration projects.

January 2008

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