In our latest's guest blog, Professor Zi-Qiang Zhu; academic principal investigator, University of Sheffield and Dr Arwyn Thomas; industrial principal investigator, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy outline the outputs and impact of an exciting offshore wind collaboration involving the academic and business sectors.
How Did It All Come About?
In 2017 the bid proposal for this innovative, collaborative project was one of eleven that were accepted and supported in the first tranche of UKRI-funded ‘Prosperity Partnership’ projects. It was a new type of funding package that was created to bring about impactful collaborations between industry and academia. The scheme has proved to be very successful and further rounds of support have been allocated to new projects in all subsequent years.
Our collaboration brought together two major players in the Offshore Wind (OSW) sector; Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE) and Ørsted. It partnered them with three world-leading academic institutions, The Universities of Sheffield, Durham and Hull, in a £7.73M, 5.5-year research programme.
This project is part of a wider collaboration – Project AURA – that includes all the consortium partners as well as the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, and local government on Humberside, offering support in research and development and in training and mentoring of UK suppliers through to full commercialisation.
Our vision was to forge a new partnership that uses leading research insight to reduce the levelized cost of energy by creating the next generation of intelligent OSW technology and for the innovation and breakthroughs that we create to be accelerated into the commercial activities of our industrial partners.
Our ambition was to exemplify the opportunities identified in the Government’s Industrial Strategy for bringing together regional institutions and businesses with research excellence and innovation support by aligning our research to the UKRI Prosperity Partnership objectives:
High energy costs and the growing impact of climate change means that sustainable energy is of critical importance. Offshore wind power is key to helping the UK achieve its CO2 emissions targets, and provide affordable, efficient energy. Addressing the energy trilemma (issues of cost, security, and sustainability) is a huge challenge and increasing the production of renewable energy is crucial to our future. The UK needs resilient, green energy sources to achieve those emissions targets and offshore wind will play a very important role. Environmentally friendly, natural energy sources will help us fight climate change and reduce our dependence on polluting energy sources, such as oil, coal, and gas.
Our project has addressed fundamental research problems that will help to reduce the Levelised Cost of Electricity from OSW and to support UK supply chain growth. This means the UK will benefit from affordable, sustainable energy, with reduced reliance on non-renewable sources. In addition we hope that the project will be an exemplar for how the maturing OSW industry can engage more systematically with academia. The industrial partners both believe that the synergy and scale of this programme will give greater momentum and coherence to industrial-academic collaboration in the future.
As of March 2023 the research from the project and the successful partnership collaborations have:
• Secured crucial further funding from a number of sources to continue the research in this field valued at over £18M
• Produced over 150 publications: journal articles, conference papers, books, chapters
• Created 80 engagement activities where we have brought groups of project members together with other external organisations to increase knowledge exchange and good practice.
• Filed 20 patents applications as a result of the research
• Employed 45 research staff (post-doctoral research associates, PhD students, technicians).
There is a lot more information about the project here including an animation to explain the work we have done, a video to tell the full story and a copy of our final report. The project web site can be found at https://npow.org.uk.
This blog and research was written by:
Dr Arwyn Thomas; industrial principal investigator, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy.
Professor Zi-Qiang Zhu; academic principal investigator, University of Sheffield