Network to Net-Zero

Lead Research Organisation: Swansea University
Department Name: College of Engineering


The data is irrefutable, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere because of human activity is by far the greatest contributor to global warming. To prevent catastrophic climate change, carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced to zero in a relatively short timeframe.

Governments globally have accepted and are being led by the science. In the Paris Agreement, the outcome of COP21, governments agreed to achieve a balance between carbon emissions and removal by 2050. These Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are due to be ratified, and anticipated to be extended, at the forthcoming COP26 in Glasgow. This balance of carbon emissions is now commonly known as 'net-zero', achieving net-zero is imperative if we are to limit the rise in global temperature to the 1.5 degC needed to preserve a liveable climate on earth. However, the window to achieve this limit is narrowing, and latest IPCC reports paint a damning picture of our trajectory. The longer we take to get to net-zero the more we will have to do to directly remove CO2 from our atmosphere in an immensely expensive process of climate repair.

However, some technologies to tackle net-zero do not yet exist and new innovations are urgently needed, particularly for hard-to-treat 'difficult to decarbonise' activities such as agriculture and energy intensive industries, such as steel, glass, and chemicals. As a result, in May 2021, the Prime Ministers of the UK and India held high level talks regarding climate change and agreed to urgent action and the joint UK-India Roadmap for 2030 has been developed.

The UK Committee for Climate change has stated "success requires a globally coordinated effort across the full chain, from basic research to market readiness". Over the next six months, this UK-India led project intends to establish the nucleus of a 'Net Zero Clustering Network' which will span the "full chain" of net-zero stakeholders. The network will identify key people and groups from the UK and India and create clusters of synergistic and complementary net-zero activities across research, innovation, demonstration, and translation. Such actors will include leading academic institutions, key industries, NGOs, green finance, government agencies, and funding organisations.

The transition to clean energy across all sectors will be at the network's core, but due to the complex interconnectedness of carbon vectors, other areas such as sustainable secure supplies of water and food are essential underpinning components for delivering equitable net-zero outcomes for society as a whole and cannot be ignored.

Complementary areas of network activity will include resource efficiency, carbon capture, and bioenergy, all broadly encompassed within the 'circular regenerative economy' heading. In addition to technology solutions, the network will enhance partnerships with users, private finance institutions, and provide evidence-based recommendations to inform policy and planning.

Building on long standing India-UK partnerships, this network intends to maintain and grow its activities and relationship on a long-term basis through a virtual centres approach. This will catalyse high level scientific research collaboration delivering innovation and international net-zero leadership supporting the global efforts on climate change and ambitious outcomes of COP26. In particular, the goals of 'mitigation' and specifically addressing targets to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to clean power, and to protect and restore nature for the benefit of people and climate. We aim to support those involved with goals around adaptation, specifically in building resilient infrastructure (including electrification of transport) and agriculture, whilst accessing the third goal of green finance. Our ethos is fully aligned to the final goal of 'collaboration', placing the UK and India at the front of this global grand challenge.
Description Progress
Building on long standing Indo-UK partnerships in solar energy technologies, (viz. APEX I & APEX II, and SUNRISE), N2NZ has maintained and grown this membership into the water and food vectors through three scoping events, with a fourth consolidating event scheduled for July 2022. These scoping summits have connected research institutions from the UK and India with key industries, NGOs, and green finance initiatives, creating a nascent innovation ecosystem and demonstrating international net zero leadership supporting the global efforts on climate change and the outcomes of COP26.

N2NZ intends to target the COP26 goals of 'mitigation' including accelerating the transition from fossil fuels to clean power and protecting and restoring nature for the benefit of people and planet. We aim to support goals around adaptation, specifically in building resilient infrastructures and agriculture, whilst accessing the third goal of green finance. Our ethos is fully aligned to the final goal of 'collaboration', placing the UK and India at the forefront of this global grand challenge.
To progress the growth of the network, a series of three scoping summits were delivered over the period Nov 21 to Mar 22 with the objective of bringing leading actors from the water, energy, and food vectors together to discuss the interconnected challenges and gather information relating to:
• Fundamental underpinning science needed to support current research.
• Enabling technologies across the nexus.
• Emerging technologies of contextual relevance.
Exploitation Route By undertaking activities under the grand-challenges identified.

Grand Challenge Themes and Innovation Enablers
Theme 1: Technologies of Change - New Energy Materials and Devices for Net Zero
Low-cost, sustainable materials and devices enabling:
• Agri-voltaics enabling:
o Energy and food to be co-produced in the same land area
o Tailored transmitted light / shading to optimise plant growth and minimise water loss
o potential for reduced energy costs and water use, extended growing seasons, and increased crop choice
• Photocatalysis for solar fuels and other feedstocks
o Green hydrogen from water splitting
o Conversion of methane to other energy sources
o Reduction of CO2 to fuels and other useful chemicals
o Conversion of N2 to fertilizer
Theme 2: Energy Systems and Technology Integration
• Agri-voltaics integration
o Optimisation with food production practices
o Enabling product diversification
o New revenue streams
• Decarbonised energy storage
o Scaling new battery technologies
o Optimised integration
o Thermal energy storage and conversion
• Carbon Capture and Conversion
o Process scaling and optimisation
Theme 3: Water and Hygiene
• Development of emerging affordable water treatment for ground and surface water highly contaminated with arsenic, fluoride, pesticides, and endocrine disrupting agents.
• New materials and devices for water harvesting, disinfection, reduced use/waste, and desalination.
• Decentralised greywater and sewage treatment for domestic water recycling.
Theme 4: Food and Agronomy
• New and improved sustainable food production systems and practices integrating renewable energy, water efficiency and microbiome engineering / management promoting soil and plant health.
• Development and optimised use of crop variety promoting resilience against climate change challenges and improved nutrition.
• Waste reduction and reuse to produce fuels, nutrients, and high-value products.
• Clean cooking technologies
Cross-Cutting Innovation Enablers
• Modelling, AI, machine learning, digitisation, standardisation, and Big Data.
• Scalability, affordability, and availability, domestic supply-chain manufacture.
• Good circular economy and ecosystem restoration metrics.
• Delimited decentralised implementation.
• Parallel development of business models.
• Community involvement, and policy engagement.
• Staff and student exchanges, joint training programmes, skills, and entrepreneurship.
• Mix of technology push and market pull activities.
• Technology demonstrators: Mid-TRL field validation sited at stakeholder relevant locations.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Environment