Supergen Bioenergy Hub Leader

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Mechanical Aerospace and Civil Eng

Abstract

Bioenergy is energy from plants, trees and other material that has recently sequestered carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. When the renewable biomass is used to produce energy it returns to the atmosphere carbon dioxide that has relatively recently been sequestered and so there is no net, long-term increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration. The SUPERGEN Bioenergy Hub is a network of academic, industrial and policy stakeholders who contribute to research into sustainable bioenergy systems addressing the technical and engineering barriers to deployment while maximizing the environmental benefits of sustainable bioenergy. This project will investigate the key research challenges that need to be addressed to develop sustainable bioenergy systems in the UK. It will collate the views and priorities of academic, industrial and policy stakeholders to integrate perspectives and build links and understanding between key stakeholders.
The outcomes of the project will be an integrated, multi-disciplinary proposal for the future of UK bioenergy research in the UK and development of a UK bioenergy community network that values different disciplinary and stakeholder perspectives and combines these to focus on sustainable development.

Planned Impact

My aim as SUPERGEN leader is to build an integrated, inter-disciplinary UK bioenergy community. This will have impact for academics, industrialists, policy stakeholders and wider civil society as follows:

Academics
For the past 5 years I have led the Supergen bioenergy hub to integrate research on different stages of the bioenergy supply chain and embed a strong focus on systems level analysis to inform key uncertainties around ecosystem impacts and engineering optimisation of bioenergy systems. This has produced dividends via recognition of UK research excellence in this area at international conferences and in high impact journal papers. This project will encompass a much broader interdisciplinary base than previous and so will allow academics to grow their professional networks to undertake more holistic appraisals of bioenergy systems. Crucially cross-comparison and integration of biological, bio-chemical and thermo-chemical technologies will be facilitated by closer integration of the BBSRC and EPSRC communities. This will result in a broadening of perspectives and cross-fertilisation of ideas supporting practical system and novel technology development.

Industrialists
Industrialists will benefit in the short term from being able to connect to sources of academic expertise in areas where technological solutions are still emerging and would benefit from support from academics with underpinning knowledge. They will also obtain an accessible portal to relevant UK research and have the opportunity to steer longer term research in directions that they think are likely to be commercially viable and deliver real sustainability benefits.

Policy stakeholders
Bioenergy policy has underwent many changes in recent years partly to keep up with the emerging knowledge base on system impacts. In this project policy stakeholders will benefit from being able to steer research to address gaps they perceive in knowledge that is impeding sustainable policy development. They will also gain faster access to emerging results on impacts of bioenergy systems to inform policy review and development.

Civil society
Climate change poses a serious threat to the well-being of our existing civil society and associated structures. This project will form part of a programme focused on accelerating the deployment of low carbon energy technologies and by focusing on minimizing the greenhouse gases of bioenergy systems will contribute to broader societal benefits.
 
Description Contributed to Defra workshop on stakeholder motivations and challenges in relation to perennial energy crops and short rotation forestry
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description Contributed to Drax Energy Crop Expert Workshop
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description Discussions on reviewing the Govt's proposed Net Zero Research and Innovation Framework
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
 
Description Participation in a focus group with Malaysian scientists
Geographic Reach Asia 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Presentation to NFU Net Zero Advisory Board
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description The role of Miscanthus in future agricultural strategy in Wales
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description (online rescheduled from a physical) Visit by the Wales Official Tourist Guides Association (WOTGA) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation given to the Wales Official Tourist Guides Association (WOTGA) CPD session on the topic "Everything you ever wanted to know about grass and were afraid to ask!" which was an overview of IBERS science and the impact of its work on the Welsh landscape from forage grasses, clovers and oats through to elephant grass. This was going to be a physical visit to Gogerddan but was rescheduled to be online following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Attend and present at the DIT Game Changing Technology for Agriculture event (One great George Street, London) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Iain Donnison gave the Keynote Presentation for the session on Game Changing Innovation for the Circular Economy to UK and international industry and policymakers. The presentation resulted in multiple questions and discussion afterwards which have the potential to increase industry collaboration in the UK and internationally.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description BBC interview and filming following publication of the Miscanthus Genome sequencing and latest Government announcements on Green Growth. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact BBC media interviews and filming following the publication of the Miscanthus genome sequence. This was part of a large international collaboration involving scientists in US, Japan, Ireland and the UK. Publication on BBC site titled: "Climate change: Aberystwyth elephant grass research could help unlock greener energy"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-54990548
 
Description BBSRC representative at the UKRI Westminster Net Zero event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Our work on the role of Miscanthus in achieving net zero was chosen by BBSRC as their contribution to the UKRI Net Zero event held at Westminser in October 2021. Attended and spoke to a large number of politicians and civil servants about Miscanthus and greenhouse gas removal. Leaflets on the PBC4GGR project were also distributed and our work featured in the video shown at the event. The event also included a virtual exhibtion mirroring the physical one, which was attended by individuals from around the UK and resulted in a number of questions about Miscanthus being answered by the staff on the virtual stand.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Botany One Blog on background to Miscanthus Genome and Flowering Time Mapping publications 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Botany One Blog on the background to the publication of two Miscanthus publications (on the Miscanthus Genome and on flowering time control) both involving significant international collaboration. The Blog provided more of the human story behind the science and the international collaborations, that led to the work.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.botany.one/2020/11/a-step-to-the-biofuels-of-the-future/
 
Description Chaired and led a discussion on net zero at the Wales Real Food and Farming Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Chaired and led a discussion on net zero at the Wales Real Food and Farming Conference "What might Welsh agriculture look like in the zero-carbon society of 2050?"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://wrffc.wales/cynhadledd-2020-conference/dydd-iau-thursday/
 
Description EUBCE 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact • Hub: The hub stand distributed over 300 papers to interested parties at the 23rd European Biomass Conference and Exhibition with follow up conversations on supply chain sustainability and bio-ccs that have facilitated development of new proposals, forthcoming events and subsequent attendance of European academics and consultants at hub meetings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2017
 
Description Evening talk and discussion at the Wales Real Food & Farming Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact An Evening talk and discussion at the Wales Real Food & Farming Conference on "How can we make Wales a productive landscape in the 21st century? Lessons from the agricultural pioneers Thomas Johnes and George Stapledon".
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://wrffc.wales/cynhadledd-2020-conference/dydd-llun-monday-16/
 
Description Hosted visit from NFU on Net Zero Agriculture 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Hosted a visit from a senior NFU team on their target for agriculture to be Net Zero by 2040. IBERS, including Core Strategic Programme (CSP) Science, was presented to describe how emissions can be decreased from ruminant livestock agriculture and what options there are for diversification into negative emission farming. The discussions included IBERS staff from all four CSP sub-programmes
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Low Carbon Agriculture Show 2022 (Stoneleigh), Panel Debate: Decarbonising Welsh Agriculture 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Iain Donnison was a panel member for the Debate on "Decarbonising Welsh Agriculture" at the Low Carbon Agriculture show at NAEC, Stoneleigh, Warwickshire. The event involved Welsh Government, NFU-Cymru, industry and the third sector with Prof Donnison representing academia. There was an audience of several hundred primarily from industry and the initial presentation sparked questions and subsequent discussion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://lowcarbonagricultureshow.co.uk
 
Description Speaker and panelist at the COP Cymru regional roadshow (mid Wales) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact As part of their COP26 activity, the Welsh Government organised a COP Cymru regional roadshow. We provided a speaker/panelist who discussed the role of plants, including Miscanthus in the future bioeconomy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021