Collaborative Projects and Partnerships Case Studies

We can work with you to develop strategic, collaborative partnerships involving other universities, businesses, public sector bodies, government and other funders to achieve a common and shared goal. Some examples of our collaborative partnerships and projects are listed here.

Birmingham Centre for Cryogenic Energy Storage

The UK’s first dedicated research facility for energy storage using cryogenic liquids was opened by former Secretary of State for Business, Sajid Javid MP. The technology could transform future energy systems, reducing the costs of integrating intermittent generation into the electricity system and ensuring power is available when it is most needed. Cryogenic energy storage systems use renewables and/or off-peak electricity to liquefy air which involves compression and expansion processes. The cryogenic liquid has a temperature below -190°c and is stored in a vessel.

It is pumped to a high pressure (150 bar) when electricity is needed. It is then vapourised into a gas, and then superheated using either, or both, heat and waste heat if available, before going through an expansion process in a turbine to generate electricity. This system generates electricity when it is most needed: taking renewable and offpeak electricity and using it at peak times to solve the ‘wrong-time wrong-place’ energy generation and supply problem. The cryogenic energy storage plant is also connected to the University’s electrical grid, providing a small amount of power to the campus. 

Sajid Javid MP

Former Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

“A Government investment of £5.9m in these cutting-edge facilities at the University of Birmingham will help scientists make their research a commercial success. The project has the potential to transform energy storage by using innovative technology that could create a new industry worth at least £1bn to the UK economy.”

City-REDI

Following a £4.8m investment by the University, Birmingham Business School has established City-REDI, a new research institute investigating cities to better understand the needs of the local economy and the changing policies impacting on the region.

A key driver for this is devolution, which is driven by the belief that decisions are best made locally. The research institute will be supporting that decision making, providing research, analysis and evidence-based advice to leaders in both the public and private arena. The work will focus on understanding productivity and growth, and developing a new economic model to explore the whole economic system at a local level. It will be developing new products and services for the public and private sector, exploring: investment; innovation; skills; enterprise and competition; local quality of life; and well-being.

The aim is to engage businesses where possible in the research, helping to shape understanding of the local economy, to develop and improve the model and test the forecasting. City-REDI will also be available to provide research services to help businesses understand the economic environment and support business decision making.

Dearman

Dearman EngineDearman is a technology company developing zeroemission cold and power systems for transport and the built environment. The transport of food and medicine, management of data, and modern transportation all demand cooling, however, the need for cold is generally met with out-dated, disproportionately polluting diesel systems. Dearman is working with industry and academia to affect systemic change in the way cold and power is provided globally.

The Dearman engine, an innovative piston engine, utilises the rapid expansion of liquid air, or liquid nitrogen, to deliver efficient zero-emission power and cooling. Working with the Birmingham Centre for Cryogenic Energy Storage (BCCES), and partners across the Midlands such as the MTC, Dearman is rapidly developing applications for this clean cold technology.

Partnership with BCCES has enabled Dearman to conduct durability and efficiency testing on the engine with a focus on tribology – the study of friction, wear and lubrication. More importantly, collaboration with BCCES has enabled Dearman to develop the knowledge and skills needed to develop its revolutionary clean cold technology, as it moves quickly from idea, to commercially available product.

Dearman’s first application, a zero emission transport refrigeration unit, began on-road trials in 2015. New applications, such as hybrid systems for buses and a backup power and cooling system for buildings, are being developed at the company’s own facility, the world’s first dedicated clean cold R&D facility. As the company grows, so it is recruiting more talented engineers and analysts, a number of which have joined the company as graduates from the University of Birmingham.

Toby Peters

CEO, Dearman

“The University is establishing itself as a centre of excellence in cryogenic research, and the UK has the potential to become a world leader in clean cold technologies. Partnerships between industry and academia will be crucial in realising this opportunity.”

National Buried Infrastructure Facility

The University of Birmingham will establish a National Buried Infrastructure Facility (NBIF) as a part of the UK Collaboration for Research in Infrastructure and Cities. The NBIF will enable scientists to test a variety of buried infrastructure systems at, or near to, full-scale to help them understand their physical and operational performance. This includes, for example, pipelines and cables, culverts and tunnels, road foundations and barrier wall systems.

This knowledge will provide the scientific evidence base to inform decisions on innovative engineering of new infrastructure systems, cost-effective maintenance and adaptation of existing infrastructures, and building in resilience to cities’ infrastructure systems in the face of increasing demands and the extreme events that are expected as the climate changes. The NBIF consists of a new state-of-the-art building housing a 25m x 10m x 5m deep test pit for testing buried infrastructure systems, pipeline and small-scale structural testing rigs, material characterisation facilities, material storage and test assembly areas, and a visualisation suite and knowledge transfer centre.

The award also enables a major upgrade to the University’s TRAIN Rig Facility, where scale-model testing of high speed train aerodynamics can be carried out. The £21m award to establish the NBIF has been made as part of a capital investment by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) to the UK Collaboratorium for Research in Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC), a collaboration of 14 UK universities which aims to provide a knowledge base to ensure the long-term functioning of the UK’s transport systems, energy systems, clean water supplies, drainage and sewerage, waste management, and flood defences and the development of SMART infrastructures.

Jo Johnson MP

Minister of State for Universities and Science.

“We are investing in this world-leading UK research network to develop new materials and engineering solutions that will deliver world-class infrastructure up and down the country.”

P&G

P&G is one of the world’s leading consumer products companies, serving 4.8 billion people around the globe. The company has many brands, amongst which are some of the world’s best known household names including Always, Ariel, Ambi Pur, Braun, Fairy, Febreze, Gillette, Head & Shoulders, Iams, Lenor, Olay, Oral-B, Pampers, Pantene, SK-II, Venus and Wella. Research and development forms a major part of P&G’s culture. It employs a team of 8,000 R&D staff worldwide and its philosophy is one of ‘Connect and Develop (Open Innovation)’.

The company works with world-class universities to undertake large scale and fundamental research and its University Partnership mission is to ‘Do world-class, game changing research to fuel innovation’. This vision led P&G to seek out expertise at the University of Birmingham, and the scope and scale of the strategic relationship between the two organisations has grown considerably over the years. The company has funded more than 50 PhD studentships in the University’s School of Chemical Engineering to investigate more economical and environmentally friendly methods of water use, effective cleaning methods and the stability of consumer products.

From this starting point the relationship has since diversified with collaborative projects now also taking place in the Schools of Psychology and Chemistry. Projects here have looked at a range of aspects from how consumers grip their detergent bottles to the characteristics of soap. The next phase of the relationship will seek to explore the potential in building and leveraging world-class capabilities and technologies through a wider innovation group.

P&G is working to connect and develop with other world-class universities and non-competing companies, both within the UK and worldwide. Such a group would seek to combine resources to tackle common, and shared, grand challenges by working on real problems with applicable research. Its collective power could also be invaluable for leveraging funding from government, and other funding bodies, for innovative research that will in turn strengthen the UK research base and its impact.

David Jakubovic

Director R&D, C+D (Open Innovation) for Europe, Middle East, and Africa, P&G

“It is a meeting of minds, where mutual interests drive outcomes and suggestions flow back and forth between our research team and the students and academics at the University. Both parties benefit from the partnership, as we pool our resources, capabilities and technologies. It is a pleasure to work with some of the top minds in the field who are as excited and enthused about achieving successful outcomes as we are.”

Twycross Zoo

Great apes have a key role in maintaining humid-forest biodiversity and forest regeneration processes through seed dispersal and dislodging of dead trees and branches. They are an essential natural resource from which humans derive considerable biological, economic and societal benefit, and as our closest living relatives they are of special interest to us scientifically. Despite their value, great apes are widely predicted to become extinct across most of their natural range within a generation. Modern zoos must therefore act as ‘arks’ so that carefully managed populations of great apes continue to exist into the future and can be released into the wild if suitable habitat still remains.

Twycross Zoo, the only UK zoo to house all four types of non-human great ape, is undergoing redevelopment to modernise. It aims to be an international leader in evidence-based management of great apes and to become the centre for research and excellence in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths education (STEM) in Europe for primate care, conservation and research. Led by Dr Susannah Thorpe and funded by The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), an internationally-unique group of researchers in the school’s of biosciences and psychology, are working with Twycross Zoo and BIAZA (the representative body of zoos and aquaria in the UK) to develop an innovative enclosure design tool.

This tool will enable zoos to engineer into their great ape enclosures the same physical, social, cultural and cognitive challenges and opportunities as wild environments offer, to produce apes that are anatomically and behaviourally comparable to their wild cousins. Many of the benefits expected from the project will have impact across the UK zoo sector and can ultimately be translated on a global scale

Sharon Redrobe

CEO, Twycross Zoo

“Twycross Zoo is proud to be at the forefront of great ape Conservation, as a member of the Grasp UN initiative, and the only UK zoo breeding and keeping all four great ape families. The collaboration with the University of Birmingham provides an opportunity for an international Centre of Excellence at Twycross Zoo.”