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UK research partnership investment fund (UKRPIF): Net Zero funded project summaries

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Research England
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The UKRPIF: Net Zero pilot has funded nine projects across the UK.

Taking IAAPS to Net Zero, University of Bath

£2,500,000

Transport – Automotive, South West

The ‘Taking IAAPS to Net Zero’ project will establish an innovative green hydrogen (H2) manufacturing capability at the ‘state of the art’, UKRPIF funded IAAPS research and innovation centre located on the Bristol & Bath Science Park. The project will address two key aims:

  • decarbonise the energy used on the site by reducing the whole building carbon footprint as well as carbon emissions of collaboration partners and their products
  • support vital research and development into sustainable propulsion technologies and the use of hydrogen as an alternative green energy vector to achieve net zero targets, in the hard to electrify sectors.

This locally established, green H2 production and storage facility will form the basis of a regional renewable transport energy research hub. It will work with a diversity of partners from automotive, heavy-duty applications, aerospace, marine and more to catalyse green growth in the region and to provide an important link in the national H2 research infrastructure, accelerating the development and adoption of net zero technology by a much broader range of stakeholders.

Sustainable Campus Testbed, University of Bristol

£2,494,000

Digital Technology, South West

The Sustainable Campus Testbed will accelerate progress towards ‘net zero’ at the new home of the Bristol Digital Futures Institute (BDFI), a renovated 200-year old former industrial building.

In line with BDFI’s mission, ‘transforming digital innovation for more inclusive, sustainable and prosperous futures’, the project aims to reduce the high levels of energy consumed by the institute’s data centre and building by:

  • developing a ‘local energy grid’ (LEG) including an energy storage facility with a microgrid demand control system, providing low carbon energy by optimal use of roof-top solar storage and use of the greenest energy from the national grid
  • implementing sensors and an active management system to reduce energy consumption of the new ‘reality emulator’ facility and data centre hardware
  • adding sensors for real-time data monitoring of building occupation and status
  • adding heat metering to provide heat, temperature and flow rate data from the data centre chillers to export heat elsewhere
  • using smart technologies in public spaces to monitor and evaluate the use of:
    • native trees and planting for carbon capture
    • ‘biohedges’ and ‘biowalls’ to improve interior air quality.

Net Zero Research Airport, Cranfield University

£3,145,000

Transport – Aviation & Aerospace, East of England and South East

The UKRPIF: Net Zero award will unlock further research and innovation potential from two existing UKRPIF projects focused on the aerospace and aviation sectors:

  • Aerospace Integration Research Centre (AIRC)
  • Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre (DARTeC).

The project focuses on advancing sustainable aviation research into developing low-carbon aircraft and decarbonising airport logistics.

New equipment will reduce or eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from research flying and airside operations at Cranfield University, amounting to 305 tonnes of CO2 per year.

A hydrogen electrolyser will supply fuel-cell aircraft research, ground operations vehicles and research into hydrogen internal combustion engines and gas turbine combustors. A mobile hydrogen compression and vehicle refuelling system will support research projects across the campus.

New electric and fuel-cell ground operations vehicles, including a fire truck, will move the university away from diesel-powered vehicles. New sensors and instruments will extend the capabilities of Cranfield University’s Living Lab research system to monitor emissions information.

The project will make a significant contribution to the ambition of net zero aviation by 2050.

CREWW ENZO: Embodying Net Zero in Operation, University of Exeter

£942,974

Natural Environment, South West

The Centre for Resilience in Environment, Water and Waste (CREWW) is a new research centre which will inform how water systems are managed in the face of climate change and population growth. CREWW is part-funded by a £10.5 million UKRPIF grant from Research England and established in partnership with South West Water.

It’s recognised that the construction and operation of a research facility, even one focused on sustainability, generates carbon emissions. The UKRPIF Net Zero award will be used to reduce emissions from the CREWW building to achieve ‘net zero in operation’ status from day one of operation, and through the lifetime of the building.

The project will also drive new learning on sustainable research infrastructure, by using the CREWW building as a living laboratory where energy and water efficiency are monitored, analysed and optimised in real time through a ‘digital twin’. We will use this learning to support our regional, national and global partners to achieve their own net zero targets, through training, sharing reports and new research collaborations.

Low Carbon Chemistry Lab of the Future, University of Liverpool

£1,330,000

Chemistry and Materials, North West

The UKRPIF-funded Materials Innovation Factory (MIF) draws together world-leading materials research and technologies, and the seamless integration of computational and experimental.

As part of the University of Liverpool’s commitment to reduce its carbon footprint, this project will reduce CO2 equivalent emissions from electrical energy use of the MIF by a minimum of 25% over 2 years, and a further 20% by Year 4. The project aims to reduce the annual carbon footprint of the building by over 415,000kg CO2 equivalent.

The Low Carbon Chemistry Lab of the Future programme will measure the 2019 baseline energy usage of the MIF, which is dominated by the energy-intensive chemical R&D activity of our users. Project activity will then substantially reduce the energy use and carbon footprint of the facility by:

  • enhancing the existing building management system using a combination of metering and visualisation tools to help lab teams proactively reduce energy usage
  • upgrading the MIF to smarter control technologies to reduce the energy usage of our fume cupboards without compromising safety
  • adapting the roof space of the MIF to fit solar panels as a means to generate power.

Future Energy Efficiency with DC Microgrid Technologies (FEED-MT), University of Nottingham

£2,000,000

Electronics, East Midlands

Electrification is critical to achieving net zero and advanced electrical systems are central to the transition. The purpose-built UKRPIF Power Electronics and Machines Centre (PEMC) works on technologies for future power converters and electrical machines to:

  • enhance performance
  • improve efficiency
  • understand reliability
  • reduce cost.

This work aims to make the transition to ‘net zero’ economically, socially and environmentally affordable.

Testing these systems requires significant electrical energy, but this energy is only required periodically when testing occurs. Consequently, the PEMC’s load profile is characterised by a steady hotel baseload interspersed by large energy spikes as testing occurs.

As the energy used is grid-based, the spikes generate greenhouse gas emissions. FEED-MT will decarbonise these large energy spikes by installing an integrated energy store charged by renewables connected through a direct current (DC) microgrid. The energy store will also enable energy to be recovered during testing that would otherwise be wasted.

FEED-MT will support the development of energy storage technologies in the UK and enhance learning about the application of DC microgrids as self-contained, efficient, low carbon power networks.

Towards Net Zero Medicines Development and Manufacturing, CMAC, University of Strathclyde

£2,500,000

Med Tech and Pharma, Scotland

The Centre for Continuous Manufacturing and Advanced Crystallisation (CMAC) at the University of Strathclyde leads a collaborative, world class research programme to advance the development and manufacture of medicines. This exciting net zero pilot will help transform our existing UKRPIF national facility into a sustainable, digitalised ‘lab of the future’ for medicines manufacturing research, training and translation.

The investment will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 50% across a range of sources and enable the adoption of more sustainable approaches in our labs. The award will allow us to work with our industrial (AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Lilly, Roche, Takeda, UCB, Chiesi), translational (CPI) and international (Universities of Copenhagen and Ghent) partners to:

  • reduce energy consumption through energy efficient infrastructure and equipment
  • reduce chemical waste using smart, intelligent, small scale experimental platforms
  • reduce emissions from travel using the latest immersive digital tools to enhance collaboration.

This multi-faceted net zero approach will establish a beacon for medicines manufacturing sustainability.

Semiconductor Innovation for Net Zero (SIN_0), Swansea University

£2,450,000

Chemistry and Materials, Wales

Semiconductors enable many aspects of our modern high tech world including computers, smart phones, telecommunications, and the internet. They are also key to advancing the net zero agenda and societal decarbonisation.

Swansea University will soon complete the building of a new industry focused, UKRPIF-funded research facility, the Centre for Integrative Semiconductor Materials (CISM). The focus at CISM will be the creation of ‘over-the-horizon’ semiconductor technologies to support ‘net zero’ such as advanced solar cells and efficient power electronics for electrification of transport.

The SIN_0 project will extend that agenda to deploy and test innovative emissions reduction strategies in energy generation and storage, resource and waste stream management. SIN_0 will not only trailblaze the decarbonisation of advanced research infrastructure like CISM but will also de-risk the interventions that the semiconductor manufacturing industry will need to employ to reduce the carbon footprint of this critical sector rapidly and dramatically.

A Net-Zero Institute for Safe Autonomy, University of York

£1,520,000

Robotics, Yorkshire and the Humber

The University of York’s Institute for Safe Autonomy is a new £45 million initiative supported by UKRPIF funding due for completion in early 2022. The institute provides an interdisciplinary hub for academics from across the university to work with industry, government, and the public to find solutions to the real-world challenges in assuring the safe roll-out of robotic and connected autonomous systems.

The UKRPIF: Net Zero award will enable the deployment of a photovoltaic (PV) array near to the building that, together with an enhanced, sensor driven, building management system, will enable the institute to become energy self-sufficient.

The PV array will also expand the institute’s research capabilities by providing a ‘living lab’ environment to explore ways to safely develop and deploy robotic and autonomous systems for the installation, inspection and maintenance of solar power arrays.

The project will be the first large-scale deployment of PV technologies at the university and will provide vital evidence on how the university can integrate solar technologies as part of its wider sustainability goals.

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