EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Resilient Decarbonised Fuel Energy Systems

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Faculty of Engineering

Abstract

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Resilient Decarbonised Fuel Energy Systems

Led by the University of Nottingham, with Sheffield and Cardiff

SUMMARY
This Centre is designed to support the UK energy sector at a time of fundamental change. The UK needs a knowledgeable but flexible workforce to deliver against this uncertain future.

Our vision is to develop a world-leading CDT, delivering research leaders with broad economic, societal and contextual awareness, having excellent technical skills and capable of operating in multi-disciplinary teams covering a range of roles. The Centre builds on a heritage of two successful predecessor CDTs but adds significant new capabilities to meet research needs which are now fundamentally different. Over 80% of our graduates to date have entered high-quality jobs in energy-related industry or academe, showing a demand for the highly trained yet flexible graduates we produce.

National Need for a Centre
The need for a Centre is demonstrated by both industry pull and by government strategic thinking. More than forty industrial and government organisations have been consulted in the shaping and preparation of this proposal. The bid is strongly aligned with EPSRC's Priority Area 5 (Energy Resilience through Security, Integration, Demand Management and Decarbonisation) and government policy.

Working with our partners, we have identified the following priority research themes. They have a unifying vision of re-purposing and re-using existing energy infrastructure to deliver rapid and cost-effective decarbonisation.
1. Allowing the re-use and development of existing processes to generate energy and co-products from low-carbon biomass and waste fuels, and to maximise the social, environmental and economic benefits for the UK from this transition
2. Decreasing CO2 emissions from industrial processes by implementation of CCUS, integrating with heat networks where appropriate.
3. Assessing options for the decarbonisation of natural gas users (as fuel or feedstock) in the power generation, industry and domestic heating system through a combination of hydrogen enhancement and/or CO2 capture. Also critical in this theme is the development of technologies that enable the sustainable supply of carbon-lean H2 and the adoption of H2 or H2 enriched fuel/feedstock in various applications.
4. Automating existing electricity, gas and other vector infrastructure (including existing and new methods of energy storage) based on advanced control technologies, data-mining and development of novel instrumentation, ensuring a smarter, more flexible energy system at lower cost.

Training
Our current Centre operates a training programme branded 'exemplary' by our external examiner and our intention is to use this as solid basis for further improvements which will include a new technical core module, a module on risk management and enhanced training in inclusivity and responsible research.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
Our current statistics on gender balance and disability are better than the EPSRC mean. We will seek to further improve this record. We are also keen to demonstrate ED&I within the Centre staff and our team also reflects a diversity in gender, ethnicity and experience.

Management and Governance
Our PI has joined us after a career conducting and managing energy research for a major energy company and led development of technologies from benchtop to full-scale implementation. He sharpens our industrial focus and enhances an already excellent team with a track record of research delivery. One Co-I chairs the UoN Ethics Committee, ensuring that Responsible Innovation remains a priority.

Value for Money
Because most of the Centre infrastructure and organisation is already in place, start-up costs for the new centre will be minimal giving the benefit of giving a new, highly refreshed technical capability but with a very low organisational on-cost.

Planned Impact

The proposed Centre will benefit the following groups

1. Students - develop their professional skills, a broad technical and societal knowledge of the sector and a wider appreciation of the role decarbonised fuel systems will play in the UK and internationally. They will develop a strong network of peers who they can draw on in their professional careers. We will continue to offer our training to other Research Council PhD students and cross-fertilise our training with that offered under other CDT programmes, and similar initiatives where that develops mutual benefit. We will further enhance this offering by encouraging industrialists to undertake some of our training as Professional Development ensuring a broadening of the training cohort beyond academe. Students will be very employable due to their knowledge, skills and broad industrial understanding.
2. Industrial partners - Companies identify research priorities that underpin their long-term business goals and can access state of the art facilities within the HEIs involved to support that research. They do not need to pre-define the scope of their work at the outset, so that the Centre can remain responsive to their developing research needs. They may develop new products, services or models and have access to a potential employee cohort, with an advanced skill base. We have already established a track record in our predecessor CDTs, with graduates now acting as research managers and project supervisors within industry
3. Academic partners - accelerating research within the Energy research community in each HEI. We will develop the next generation of researchers and research leaders with a broader perspective than traditional PhD research and create a bedrock of research expertise within each HEI, developing supervisory skills across a broad range of topics and faculties and supporting HEIs' goals of high quality publications leading to research impacts and an informed group of educators within each HEI. .
4. Government and regulators - we will liaise with national and regional regulators and policy makers. We will conduct research directly aligned with the Government's Clean Growth Strategy, Mission Innovation and with the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund's theme Prosper from the Energy Revolution, to help meet emission, energy security and affordability targets and we will seek to inform developing energy policy through new findings and impartial scientific advice. We will help to provide the skills base and future innovators to enable growth in the decarbonised energy sector.
5. Wider society and the publics - developing technologies to reduce carbon emissions and reduce the cost of a transition to a low carbon economy. Need to ascertain the publics' views on the proposed new technologies to ensure we are aligned with their views and that there will be general acceptance of the new technologies. Public engagement will be a two-way conversation where researchers will listen to the views of different publics, acknowledging that there are many publics and not just one uniform group. We will actively engage with public from including schools, our local communities and the 'interested' public, seeking to be honest providers of unbiased technical information in a way that is correct yet accessible.

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