Universities and Science Minister, Chris Skidmore, visited ERA's Research Acceleration and Demonstration (RAD) building yesterday at the University of Nottingham, where he met with Professor Seamus Garvey, ERA's lead for the Geo-Energy theme. Professor Garvey showed the Minister his laboratory facilities and his ideas around compressed air energy storage and how it can potentially be used in future to meet the UK's energy needs.

During Chris Skidmore's visit, he also met with Dr Helen Turner, Director of Midlands Innovation, which manages the ERA programme. Dr Turner discussed the world-leading research that the Midlands Innovation partnership is undertaking. She said: “We were delighted to welcome the Rt Hon Chris Skidmore and have been able to discuss with him our ambitious plans for the future of developing a low carbon innovation ecosystem.

"The Government has set a target of the country achieving Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050, and as the UK’s largest green energy research partnership, our message to the Minister is clear – we are here and ready to help not only the Government to achieve its target, but also to take an active role in supporting this region’s ambitious towns and cities who want to achieve net zero earlier than the national target too.”

Midlands Innovation is part of the region’s Midlands Engine partnership which champions the area’s business, place and skills agendas and MI’s partner institutions also pride themselves on supporting the civic agendas of the places in which they are primarily located.

 Chris Skidmore with Seamus1024

Photo shows, left to right: Helen Turner, Director of Midlands Innovation; Chris Skidmore, Universities, Science and Innovation Minister; Professor Seamus Garvey, University of Nottingham and Theme Lead for G-ERA

Dr Turner continued: “ERA is a great example of investing in place – as a university partnership of the region’s most research-intensive universities we have a real breadth and depth in energy-related research, but it is also a real strength of our region. One in three jobs in energy generation in the UK are in the Midlands; we are home to the strongest cluster of energy research infrastructure directed at energy solutions; the Midlands is home to National Grid, Rolls Royce, British Gas, and many more leading organisations involved in the nation’s energy sector.”

MI has used £60m of Government funding it received for ERA - which it was awarded by via Innovate UK - to attract double that amount (£120m) from the private sector. It has used this investment to create 23 cutting-edge green energy research facilities to undertake ground-breaking research into the future of renewable energy in the areas energy generation, energy storage and energy use - all areas where research breakthroughs could support the world’s ability to tackle the climate change emergency.

Dr Turner added: “ERA is a great example which demonstrates how MI can act at a large scale and deliver, and how it can support the Government’s ambitions around increasing the national investment in research and development to 2.4% of GDP to tackle some of the country’s and indeed world’s biggest challenges.”

Also as part of the Minister’s visit to MI partner, the University of Nottingham, he met with staff and students and heard about the universities plans to expand its Innovation Park – where innovative businesses and research takes place side by side.

After his visit to Nottingham, Chris Skidmore visited the University of Leicester which leads the Midlands Innovation space research group, bringing together academic excellence in the field of space research from all MI partner institutions – the universities of Aston, Birmingham, Cranfield, Keele, Loughborough, Leicester, Nottingham and Warwick. 

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Background information:
• MI’s green energy research partnership – the Energy Research Accelerator or ERA – is the UK’s largest energy research partnership. It brings together the academic excellence of all eight Midlands Innovation partners with the British Geological Survey – the country’s national geological facility, which is also based in the Midlands.

• Midlands Innovation hosts the UK’s Higher Education Technician’s Summit (HETS). A bi-annual national conference recognising the integral role of Technicians in undertaking world-leading research. All MI university partners are founder signatories of the National Technician’s Commitment.

• Midlands Innovation also undertakes research in decarbonising transport, in space and health.

• It’s health research partnership, MI Health, brings together the country’s best health research expertise with the NHS and industry. You can find out more by visiting: midlandsinnovation.org.uk/Health

• MICRA – Midlands Innovation Commercialisation Research Accelerator is backed by the UK Government by £5m of Research England funding. It brings together the eight Technology Transfer Offices (which transfer academic research into business opportunities) of the Midlands Innovation university partners. MICRA delivers more patents per pound of research funding than any other UK university partnership. You can find out more about MICRA by visiting: www.micragateway.org

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