EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Renewable Energy Northeast Universities (ReNU)

Lead Research Organisation: Northumbria University
Department Name: Fac of Engineering and Environment

Abstract

The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Renewable Energy Northeast Universities (ReNU) is driven by industry and market needs, which indicate unprecedented growth in renewable and distributed energy to 2050. This growth is underpinned by global demand for electricity which will outstrip growth in demand for other sources by more than two to one (The drivers of global energy demand growth to 2050, 2016, McKinsey). A significant part of this demand will arise from vast numbers of distributed, but interconnected devices (estimated to reach 40 billion by 2024) serving sectors such as healthcare (for ageing populations) and personal transport (for reduced carbon dioxide emission). The distinctive remit of ReNU therefore is to focus on materials innovations for small-to-medium scale energy conversion and storage technologies that are sustainable and highly scalable.

ReNU will be delivered by Northumbria, Newcastle and Durham Universities, whose world-leading expertise and excellent links with industry in this area have been recognised by the recent award of the North East Centre for Energy Materials (NECEM, award number: EP/R021503/1). This research-focused programme will be highly complementary to ReNU which is a training-focused programme. A key strength of the ReNU consortium is the breadth of expertise across the energy sector, including: thin film and new materials; direct solar energy conversion; turbines for wind, wave and tidal energy; piezoelectric and thermoelectric devices; water splitting; CO2 valorisation; batteries and fuel cells.

Working closely with a balanced portfolio of 36 partners that includes multinational companies, small and medium size enterprises and local Government organisations, the ReNU team has designed a compelling doctoral training programme which aims to engender entrepreneurial skills which will drive UK regional and national productivity in the area of Clean Growth, one of four Grand Challenges identified in the UK Government's recent Industrial Strategy. The same group of partners will also provide significant input to the ReNU in the form of industrial supervision, training for doctoral candidates and supervisors, and access to facilities and equipment.

Success in renewable energy and sustainable distributed energy fundamentally requires a whole systems approach as well as understanding of political, social and technical contexts. ReNU's doctoral training is thus naturally suited to a cohort approach in which cross-fertilisation of knowledge and ideas is necessary and embedded. The training programme also aims to address broader challenges facing wider society including unconscious bias training and outreach to address diversity issues in science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects and industries. Furthermore, external professional accreditation will be sought for ReNU from the Institute of Physics, Royal Society of Chemistry and Institute of Engineering Technology, thus providing a starting point from which doctoral graduates will work towards "Chartered" status.

The combination of an industry-driven doctoral training programme to meet identifiable market needs, strong industrial commitment through the provision of training, facilities and supervision, an established platform of research excellence in energy materials between the institutions and unique training opportunities that include internationalisation and professional accreditation, creates a transformative programme to drive forward UK innovation in renewable and sustainable distributed energy.

Planned Impact

ReNU's enhanced doctoral training programme delivered by three uniquely co-located major UK universities, Northumbria (UNN), Durham (DU) and Newcastle (NU), addresses clear skills needs in small-to-medium scale renewable energy (RE) and sustainable distributed energy (DE). It was co-designed by a range of companies and is supported by a balanced portfolio of 27 industrial partners (e.g. Airbus, Siemens and Shell) of which 12 are small or medium size enterprises (SMEs) (e.g. Enocell, Equiwatt and Power Roll). A further 9 partners include Government, not-for-profit and key network organisations. Together these provide a powerful, direct and integrated pathway to a range of impacts that span whole energy systems.

Industrial partners will interact with ReNU in three main ways: (1) through the Strategic Advisory Board; (2) by providing external input to individual doctoral candidate's projects; and (3) by setting Industrial Challenge Mini-Projects. These interactions will directly benefit companies by enabling them to focus ReNU's training programme on particular needs, allowing transfer of best practice in training and state-of-the-art techniques, solution approaches to R&D challenges and generation of intellectual property. Access to ReNU for new industrial partners that may wish to benefit from ReNU is enabled by the involvement of key networks and organisations such as the North East Automotive Alliance, the Engineering Employer Federation, and Knowledge Transfer Network (Energy).

In addition to industrial partners, ReNU includes Government organisations and not for-profit-organisations. These partners provide pathways to create impact via policy and public engagement. Similarly, significant academic impact will be achieved through collaborations with project partners in Singapore, Canada and China. This impact will result in research excellence disseminated through prestigious academic journals and international conferences to the benefit of the global community working on advanced energy materials.

Organisations

Publications

10 25 50