New Global Centre in Clean Energy to be led by the University of Birmingham

The University of Birmingham is to be the UK lead for a new £6.2m Global Centre in Clean Energy.

Funded by UK Research and Innovation, the Global Centre for Clean Energy and Equitable Transportation Solutions (CLEETS), will focus on reducing emissions from road transport, using three regions as case studies: the West Midlands and South Wales in the UK, and the Great Lakes megaregion of the US.

The University of Birmingham, which has received £3.2m in funding for the Centre, is joined by Cardiff University as a UK project partner. The Discovery Partners Institute, part of the University of Illinois System, will be leading the project in the US with a $5m award from the National Science Foundation.

Transportation is a vital part of everyday life, and critical for the economy and meeting the needs of communities. However, emissions from the sector are responsible for 24% of the UK’s total emissions. CLEETS will develop sustainable and equitable transportation strategies that improve travel and energy efficiency, assess the state of transport energy infrastructure, and optimise it to accelerate the transition to zero-emission clean energy and connected vehicles, as well as model their impact on climate change.

The Centre will be led in the UK by Dr Jonathan Radcliffe, Reader in Energy Systems and Policy at the University of Birmingham, with an interdisciplinary team of academics who have expertise in energy and transport demand, air quality and health, and local governance.

Dr Radcliffe said: “Designing a decarbonised transport system that meets the needs of the economy and communities, whilst being equitable and resilient, needs an approach that integrates research from across disciplines, with the private sector and policy making. Decarbonising transport will be intricately coupled to the energy system, so we need a joined-up approach. This Global Centre gives us the opportunity to develop solutions in the UK and US at a scale that can transform our cities and regions.”

Ashish Sharma, Climate and Urban Sustainability Lead at Discovery Partners Institute and CLEETS Global Center Director said: “Climate change is a global problem but its solutions are local. Through these joint awards, we will be able to test and quantify the anticipated impact of policy change scenarios to reduce carbon emissions while also supporting economic opportunity, workforce resilience, and public health. I am looking forward to working with Jonathan and the University of Birmingham team on this important research.”

Professor Robin Mason, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International) at the University of Birmingham said: “I am delighted that the University of Birmingham will be leading the CLEETS Global Centre. The University is a leader in energy and environmental research and this latest announcement is a testament to the incredible work being done by world-leading academics like Jonathan.

“The University of Birmingham has a long-standing strategic partnership with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: the 10th anniversary of this is in 2024, and what better way to mark it than with the establishment of this Centre. We are looking forward to the next decade of engagement with UIUC, and with working with Cardiff University and DPI as the Global Centre begins its work.”

Dame Ottoline Leyser, CEO UKRI, said: “UKRI’s Building a Green Future Programme aims to harness the power of research and innovation to tackle hard-to-decarbonise sectors in our economy. We are excited to be partnering with our sister organisations in the US, Canada and Australia to accelerate progress toward this crucial goal.

“Our combined investment in Global Centers enables exciting researcher and innovation-led international and interdisciplinary collaboration to drive the energy transition. I look forward to seeing the creative solutions developed through these global collaborations.”

The University of Birmingham will also be collaborating on the Global Hydrogen Production Technologies (HyPT) Center, which involves partners in the US, Canada, UK and Australia, with the UK consortia led by Cranfield University and includes Newcastle University, the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London. This Global Center will provide broad coverage of all major technologies for net-zero hydrogen production to de-risk the global challenge of cost reduction and scale-up.