Following swiftly on from the Minister complementing the Midlands Innovation (MI) partnership in his national speech last week on levelling-up the UK economy and R&D investment, the Rt Hon Chris Skidmore MP visited two MI partners to see first-hand the ground-breaking collaborative research being undertaken.
The Minister visited the University of Nottingham and the University of Leicester – two of the eight partner institutions in Midlands Innovation – on Thursday (January 30th 2020), and met with Midlands Innovation Director, Dr Helen Turner, to discuss the world-leading research the partnership is undertaking and in particular, to hear about the innovative low carbon energy research that is taking place at the University of Nottingham, which forms an important strand of MI’s green energy research partnership – The Energy Research Accelerator (ERA).
Dr Turner 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.
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 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 and demonstration projects, to undertake ground-breaking research into the future of renewable energy, research which is looking at new ways in which energy is generated, stored and used. These are all areas where research breakthroughs will 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.
Whilst in Leicester, the RT Hon Chris Skidmore helped University of Leicester Vice-Chancellor, Nishan Canagarajah, to ‘break the ground’ on a new £100m Space Park. When built, the site will be home to a world-leading cluster of innovative research, enterprise and education in space and Earth Observation.
Renowned for its expertise in space research, the University of Leicester leads the Midlands Innovation space research group, which brings 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.
Commenting on the ground-breaking at Space Park Leicester, Midlands Innovation Director, Dr Helen Turner, said: “We are extremely proud that the University of Leicester is building such a fantastic cutting-edge facility where businesses in the space industry can tap into the world-leading space research which will be undertaken there.” Read more here.