The Science Minister, Amanda Solloway MP, visited the Energy Research Accelerator’s RAD Building this week, on her very first official visit in the role.
The visit to the University of Nottingham was arranged by Midlands Innovation and ERA, and gave the Minister the opportunity to learn more about some of the innovative work taking place across the region by the nine ERA partners, comprising the eight Midlands innovation universities plus the British Geologcial Survey.
Professor Martin Freer, Director of ERA, explained to the minister how the initial £60m funding for ERA from Innovate UK has leveraged an additional £120m from industry and universities. This funding has been used to develop 23 cutting-edge facilities which are currently being used by researchers for both academic and industrial research projects.
Professor Freer talked through some examples of ERA’s research, including:
- Trent Basin Community Energy Scheme in Nottingham and how residents are generating and storing their own energy using the largest community battery in Europe.
- Tyseley Energy Park in Birmingham which is an energy nexus for the city generating energy from waste, providing hydrogen refuelling for city buses and working as an energy innovation zone.
- HyDeploy at Keele University where hydrogen is being mixed into the university’s heating network
- Battery technologies at Warwick University where ERA has invested £20m to create a world-leading battery innovation centre
- Thermal storage at Birmingham, Loughborough and Nottingham
- Hydrogen research undertaken by the partners, including the hydrogen train at Birmingham University
- The Factory in a Box at the MTC
- Solar technology innovation at Loughborough University
- BioEnergy research at Aston University
Photo shows, left to right: Faye Mcanulla (ERA Development Manager); Prof Martin Freer (Director of ERA and Director of the Birmingham Energy Institute); Dr Helen Turner (Director of Midlands Innovation); Amanda Solloway (Science Minister) and Professor Dame Jessica Corner (PVC of Research and Knowledge Exchange, University of Nottingham)
Prof Freer talked about the strength of the partnership, which can draw upon the expertise of over 1,000 researchers and where academics are working collaboratively on ‘Big Ideas’ which brings together expertise and resources from across the ERA partnership.
After the presentation, the Minister met with Professor Seamus Garvey of the University of Nottingham, who showed her a novel compressed air energy storage technology that he has created, which links to a thermal store which uses gravel to store energy.
Speaking about the visit by Amanda Solloway, Professor Freer said: “I was delighted to meet the Science Minister today. She is very interested in the work that we are doing in energy research, as reaching net-zero as quickly as possible is a shared aim of both the government and ERA. At ERA, we have proven that by working together we can bring in more expertise and do things on a much bigger scale than any one university is capable of achieving alone.
“The Minister expressed an interest in coming back to find out more about a couple of our projects and we are looking forward to welcoming her again in future so that we can show her more examples of the exciting work we’re doing to make the transition to a low-carbon economy and fight climate change.”
Professor Seamus Garvey G-ERA theme lead, from University of Nottingham explains to the Minister how his compressed air energy storage technology works
In addition to her visit to ERA, the Minister also took part in a roundtable with female scientists and entrepreneurs from the eight Midlands Innovation partner universities, and also launched a new £5m Midlands Innovation programme for the development of technicians, called TALENT.
For more information about ERA, visit www.era.ac.uk