Supergen Leaders selected to prepare research hub bids

Supplementary content information

Photos of Professor Deborah Greaves, Professor Patricia Thornley and Professor Phil Taylor

Professor Deborah Greaves, Professor Patricia Thornley and Professor Phil Taylor

Three leaders have been identified to lead the next phase of the Supergen Programme and ultimately draw up detailed proposals to establish new hubs investigating ground-breaking new approaches to sustainable energy technologies, whilst addressing user-inspired challenges in the sector.

As part of the Supergen Programme, managed by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), they have received six-month grants to prepare and build consortia, scope out research strategies and devise networking and engagement plans designed to maximise impact in their fields. If they are successful at a second stage in 2018, they will each be awarded £5 million of funding to establish the new hubs.

The three Supergen Leaders identified are:

  • Professor Patricia Thornley, University of Manchester (Bioenergy)
  • Professor Phil Taylor, Newcastle University (Energy Networks)
  • Professor Deborah Greaves, University of Plymouth (Offshore Renewable Energy)

The leader-led approach to this call has been introduced after an independent review of the Supergen Programme recommended that Principal Investigators or Directors should be enabled to act as strategic and thought leaders to provide direction and sign-posting research for users.

The Supergen Programme was set up in 2001 to deliver sustained and coordinated research on Sustainable PowER GENeration and supply, focusing on eight key research areas: bioenergy; energy networks; energy storage; fuel cells; hydrogen and other vectors; marine, wave and tidal; solar technology; and wind power.

EPSRC has supported seven Supergen hubs with £150 million of investment over the last five years (including calls and Centres for Doctoral Training) and the initiative has led to the development of new tools and technologies, such as pre-treatment technologies for emission reduction in bioenergy; greater collaboration between academia, government and industry; the creation of new strategies and innovation programmes, such as in CHP fuel cells; and provided an opportunity for international collaboration.

Three of EPSRC's fellow Research Councils are providing funding and other support for the proposed new hubs: the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (bioenergy); the Natural Environment Research Council (offshore renewable energy); and the Economic and Social Research Council (technical and people aspects of all three proposed hubs).

Summaries of the three proposed Supergen hubs

Supergen Bioenergy Hub, to be led by Professor Patricia Thornley, University of Manchester

The Supergen Bioenergy Hub will bring together a network of academic, industrial and policy stakeholders to address the technical and engineering barriers to sustainable bioenergy systems. Bioenergy is energy from plants, trees and other material that has recently sequestered carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which can be utilised with efficient conversion technologies to produce low carbon energy. The project will look to maximise the environmental benefits of sustainable bioenergy, and lead to an integrated, multi-disciplinary proposal for the future of bioenergy research in the UK and the development of a community network to focus on sustainable development.

EPSRC funding for initial six-month grant: £150,783

Supergen Energy Networks Hub, to be led by Professor Phil Taylor, Newcastle University

The aim of the project is to establish a vibrant, well-connected, diverse, open and communicative energy networks community with a deeper understanding of whole systems approaches to energy networks. Despite their vital importance to the UK's energy sector, industry and society, there is no current whole systems approach to studying the interconnected and interdependent nature of energy network infrastructure, and the challenges it faces. The hub would integrate a wide range of stakeholders while complementing national and international investments in energy networks, with the hub designed to allow all stakeholders to fully exploit opportunities in the sector.

EPSRC funding for initial six-month grant: £149,944

Supergen Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Hub, to be led by Professor Deborah Greaves, University of Plymouth

The vision for the hub is to bring together for mutual benefit the related research areas of wave, tidal and offshore wind in order to share skills, resources and expertise across the field of ORE. This approach is designed to maintain the UK's leading position in this field and address technical, environmental and interdisciplinary challenges which require a coordinated response at national and regional level. Work at the proposed hub would aim to build a collaborative approach which will bring benefits through the sharing of best practice and exploitation of synergy, and support equality and diversity and early career researcher development to develop new research leaders.

EPSRC funding for initial six-month grant: £147,890

Notes for Editors:

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

As the main funding agency for engineering and physical sciences research, our vision is for the UK to be the best place in the world to Research, Discover and Innovate.

By investing £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, we are building the knowledge and skills base needed to address the scientific and technological challenges facing the nation. Our portfolio covers a vast range of fields from healthcare technologies to structural engineering, manufacturing to mathematics, advanced materials to chemistry. The research we fund has impact across all sectors. It provides a platform for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone's health, lifestyle and culture.

We work collectively with our partners and other Research Councils on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK.

Reference: PN 53-17

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