Low-carbon energy is a key theme of research council’s 2011-2015 delivery plan

By David Bicknell

With 2010 drawing to a close, it’s a good time to look ahead to the prospects for Green IT and low-carbon technologies in 2011. In many cases, beyond 2011, because plans for the adoption of low-carbon and Green IT technologies necessarily have to look towards the medium and long-term to be successful.

With that in mind, I was intrigued by the publication a few days before Christmas of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s (EPSRC) delivery plan for 2015.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences research Council (EPSRC) is the UK’s main agency for funding research in engineering and physical sciences, investing in research and postgraduate training to help handle the next generation of technological change.

According to EPSRC’s CEO, Professor Dave Delpy, the ‘ambitious’ delivery plan with programmes in sustainable manufacturing, low-carbon energy, healthcare and digital technologies ‘will help rebuild the UK economy and meet the challenges of the 21st century.’

The EPSRC plan is based on four main themes: Manufacturing the Future, Energy, the Digital Economy, and Healthcare Technologies.

Of these, the proposals under the Energy theme look particularly interesting:

* Accelerate the deployment of alternative energy technologies, working with TSB, ETI and others on joint challenges in offshore renewables, bioenergy, carbon capture and storage and eco-efficient technologies.

* Work with the Low Carbon Innovation Group to target technologies with the potential to meet the UK’s CO2 reduction targets.

* Maximise the relevance of our portfolio and accelerate the route to impact by exploiting our partnerships with over 500 public and private sector organisations.

* Pursue high-risk, high-return speculative research to define future energy options – for example, the UK Fusion Programme and Grand Challenges such as next generation renewables and transport.

* Exploit our major links with China, India and the US, enabling leading researchers to address global energy challenges together.

* Support research on the social, environmental, economic and technical implications of energy research in order to understand future energy options.

* Train and develop new researchers, policymakers and business leaders in order to build UK capacity and vision of the whole energy innovation landscape.

Inevitably for organisations like EPSRC, collaborations with Government Departments are critical and EPSRC has links with over 10 government departments. In addition to contributing to policy development in areas such as climate change, transport and nuclear power, it has a high-profile collaboration with Department for Transport on sustainable transport; it is supporting a jointly-funded Natural and Environmental Risk Centre with Defra18; and it is working with the MoD on projects such as the generation of electricity from human movement that will make soldiers ‘battery-free’.

In this Delivery Plan period, EPSRC expects to build, or maintain, strong relationships with key departments both to provide advice and share information on future research priorities; create routes for timely policy advice to ministers and provide policymakers with better access to our current portfolio; and combine resources to create strategic programmes attracting business leverage while securing multiplier effects for public funding.

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