Supergen Storage Network Plus 2019

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Chemical Engineering


Energy Storage (ES) has a key role to play as a part of whole UK and global energy systems, by providing flexibility, enhancing affordability, security and resilience against supply uncertainties, and addressing the huge challenges related to the climate change. Following UKRI investment over the last decade, the UK is in a strong position internationally in ES research and innovation. Although areas of UK expertise are world leading, there is little interaction between these areas and interplaying disciplines e.g. artificial intelligence, data and social sciences. This fragmentation limits the community's ability to deliver significant societal impact and threatens the continuity of delivering research excellence, missing opportunities as a result. Consequently, there is now an urgent need for the ES community to connect, convene and communicate more effectively. The proposed Supergen Storage Network Plus 2019 project (ES-Network+) responds to this need by bringing together 19 leading academics at different career stages across 12 UK institutions, with complementary energy storage (ES) related expertise and the necessary multidisciplinary balance to deliver the proposed programme.

The aim of the ES-Network+ is to create a dynamic, forward-looking and sustainable platform, connecting and serving people from diverse backgrounds across the whole ES value chain including industry, academia and policymakers. As a focal point for the ES community, we will create, exchange and disseminate ES knowledge with our stakeholders. We will nurture early career researchers (ECR) in ES and establish ambitious, measurable goals for equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI). We will complement existing activities (e.g. Faraday Institution, UKERC, Energy Systems Catapult, CREDS, other Supergen Hubs) to serve the UK's needs, delivering impact nationally and internationally.

The ES-Network+ will convene and support the ES community to deliver societal impact through technological breakthroughs, generating further value from the UKRI ES portfolio. It will be a secure and inclusive eco-system for researchers in ES & related fields to access, innovate, build and grow their UK and international networks. It is distinctive from the current Supergen Storage Hub: We have a PI with non-electrochemical background, an expanded investigator team with complementary expertise in energy network integration, mechanical and inter-seasonal thermal ES, hybrid storage with digital knowledge, cold storage, transport with ES integration, ES materials measurement & imaging and social science with policy implications. Early career researchers will hold key positions within the ES-Network+ and we will underpin all of our work with EDI values. We will develop an authoritative whitepaper for steering ES related decision-making, giving an overview of the ES community and a technical view on how ES research should be steered going forward.

The team is extremely well-connected to the ES industry and the wider energy community and has secured 57 supporting organisations, including energy production, transmission, distribution & network operation, specialist aggregators of heat & power, storage technology developers and integrators; ES related manufacturers, ES related recycling; and research institutes/centres/hubs/networks/associations both nationally and internationally. The supporting organisations also bring in a significant amount of extra resources to ensure a successful delivery of the ES-Network+.

Planned Impact

The direct impacts of this project will be felt across the whole energy storage (ES) and wider energy community.

With recent investment directed towards electrical storage (particularly Li-ion batteries through the Faraday Institution), key research questions relating to non-electrical (e.g. thermal, mechanical, chemical) and non-Li-ion based electrical ES technologies are at risk of going unanswered. As a result, academics working on thermal, mechanical, chemical and non-Li-ion based ES will benefit from the ES-Network+, which through its programme of work, will rebalance the UK ES research portfolio.

Academics working on energy system level requirements will benefit from discussion and knowledge exchange with colleagues working on a variety of different ES technologies. A better understanding of the system level requirements also ensures more application-driven research geared towards addressing research gaps, and will benefit a wide range of stakeholders with their ES related decision-making.

For industry, applications of ES technologies carry varying levels of risks and current academic led research does not always address the most appropriate research questions to de-risk further investments or wider adoption of ES technologies. Engagement with industry throughout the project will ensure that future research (including the flexible funding of the ES-Network+) can stay relevant to challenges faced by industry.

Organisations focusing on areas of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) will directly benefit from the ES-Network+ through its EDI working group. The working group will set ambitious, measurable EDI goals for the ES-Network+ to aspire to throughout the project duration. As part of its remit, the EDI working group will interact with InterEngineering (IE, LGBT focussed) and the Association for Black and Minority Ethnicity Engineers (ABME), with an initial aim to secure EDI working group membership for a representative from each of these organisations. Through EDI working group meetings and EDI activities, both organisations (and likely more) will be able to share examples of best practice, ensuring that the ES-Network+ is addressing the gaps that are of paramount importance to IE and ABME.

Early Career Researchers (ECRs) working on ES and related areas will benefit from a carefully planned programme of mentoring from their senior colleagues within the ES and related fields, leading to future UK ES research leaders.

The ES-Network+ project will develop an ES database and an authoritative ES whitepaper through ES network mapping, data gathering, EDI and ECR activities and feasibility studies. The database and the whitepaper will benefit a large number of stakeholders. Academic stakeholders will be able to access the information from the database and document, opening up pathways for future collaborations. Industrial stakeholders will use the information to identify academics working in fields of interest to explore potential collaborative research programmes, and to make ES related decisions. Policymakers and public sector stakeholders will be able to use the information as a direct route to ES experts, from whom they can draw advice, shaping local and national energy policy in the longer term.

A better-connected ES community will accelerate the development and deployment of energy storage technologies, benefitting the economy (e.g. growing the manufacturing sector), environment (e.g. reduced emissions) and society (e.g. reduced energy bills and increased job opportunities).



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