New £180m fund to accelerate energy research across the Midlands Engine

A major new fund designed to drive cutting-edge research, innovation and skills across the Midlands Engine has been officially launched with significant backing from Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.

The Chancellor set out a commitment at the Spending Review to deliver significant government investment in the Midlands across transport, energy and culture. This included £60 million to help establish a new Energy Research Accelerator (ERA) to help grow the region’s high-tech, high-skilled economy.

The ERA will receive £60 million of public money to unlock £120 million of private sector co-investment and it was launched on 26 April by the Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, Lord O’Neill.

The ERA is the first project to be delivered by the Midlands Innovation initiative, a collaboration of six leading universities across the Midlands.

The universities – Loughborough University, Aston University, the University of Birmingham, Leicester University, the University of Nottingham and the University of Warwick – will work alongside the British Geological Survey, local industry and others to create a global centre of excellence for energy research and innovation.

It will tackle some of the biggest energy challenges facing the UK and investigate how to make the best use of the resources available by being more efficient and innovative whilst producing affordable, safe energy.

The Midlands Innovation initiative has ambitious plans to apply the same vision to the nation’s transport, health, and biomedical science challenges in the future.

Loughborough University’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Robert Allison, said: “We are delighted to be a part of this exciting new collaboration. We have some incredible research expertise at Loughborough which, combined with the other Midlands Innovation partners, can make a real difference to the UK and beyond.”

Speaking at the launch event for Midlands Innovation alongside the Chair of Midlands Innovation, Professor Sir David Greenaway, and Dr Tony Harper, Head of Research for Jaguar Land Rover, Lord O’Neill said: “Backing innovation and skills is key to helping make the Midlands an Engine for Growth for Britain and this funding will help to drive forward the combined expertise for the leading universities in the region.

“The Chancellor used the Spending Review last year to set out how the government is making significant investments in the Midlands, across transport, energy and culture and this funding is another example of our work to back the region’s strengths.”

 The evening saw Lord O’Neil and the Midlands Innovation universities announce:

  • The first major programme from Midlands Innovation is a £180m Energy Research Accelerator (ERA). ERA is a cross-disciplinary hub of technology research and energy talent which brings the expertise of Midlands Innovation universities and the British Geological Survey together with the surrounding industrial base to tackle some of the biggest energy challenges facing the UK.
  • The government, via the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, has committed an initial capital investment of £60m to ERA. This investment has unlocked private sector co-investment of a further £120m for the first phase of the programme
  • The following companies will provide £100m to co-finance the ERA: Arcola, Blueprint, CPL, GE Aviation, Hydrexia, Intelligent Energy, ITM Power, Johnson Matthey, Tarmac, Royal Engineers, Schlumberger, Siemens, Torftech, TWI, JLR, Cofely, Dearman Engine Co, Highview.
  • The Universities will provide the final £20m and together with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), have collectively committed £2.4 million to recruit 33 doctoral students to help deliver this step change in applied innovation to work on areas such as: smarter energy systems, reducing the UK’s dependence on importing energy, enhancing energy security and resilience, and helping to achieve the UK’s carbon reduction targets.

Speaking at the launch, Professor Sir David Greenaway, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nottingham and Chair of Midlands Innovation said: “Midlands Innovation brings together the leading research engines in the region. The partnership is built on a strong history of our universities working together and with the Energy Research Accelerator we have created a cross-disciplinary research hub which connects academia and industry to create jobs, drive growth, develop skills and produce innovative new products with sustainable, practical uses.

“Through exciting applications of combined research expertise such as ERA, Midlands Innovation will help leverage the capabilities of the Midlands with national and international firms and investors and provide a platform for productivity for the region and wider UK.”

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