Midlands Energy Graduates win prize for eco-friendly fridge coolant technology

Posted on Wednesday 5th June 2013

A team of University energy researchers have won first prize in a new national competition, the Energy Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (Energy YES) with their idea for eco-friendly refrigerator cooling units.

The winning team was Midlands Energy Graduate School (MEGS) consisting of 5 researchers from The University of Birmingham, Loughborough University and The University of Nottingham. Their idea came about from research into using magnetic fields within household appliances. The team’s offering was a magnetic cooling unit which can be sold to refrigeration manufacturers for use in their products.

The unit uses water instead of chemical coolants, which means greener appliances with the added bonus of low energy consumption and a longer life span. According to the charity Wastewatch, 2.4 million fridges and freezers are thrown away every year in the UK. Those not exported to developing countries have to be carefully decommissioned to extract the ozone-depleting coolants used in the old days. MEGS’ idea could provide the future solution to this problem.

Energy YES is a national competition which aims to develop the entrepreneurial skills of researchers whilst also helping to solve some of the most serious challenges facing the energy industry. The competition is organised by University of Nottingham Institute for Enterprise and Innovation (UNIEI) and the Network of Energy Doctoral Training Centres and is aimed at energy research PhD students.

With a prize of £1000 for the winning idea, a total of 50 researchers from around the country, took part in a workshop to develop business plans for their energy sector-specific idea before pitching their plan ‘Dragons' Den’ style, to a panel of judges.

Professor Simon Mosey, Director of UNIEI at The University of Nottingham, said: “I was incredibly impressed with the high standard of the ideas from all the teams that took part in the competition. I am sure that many of the researchers who participated will help to champion exciting new technologies within the energy industry.”

Mei Chew, a PhD student in her 3rd year of research into Nuclear Waste Management at Loughborough University and one fifth of the winning MEGS team, said: “Energy YES has been so worthwhile. Winning aside, we’ve learnt a lot about commercialisation of science and it has been really useful to talk to mentors such as patent attorneys that we wouldn’t usually have access to. The speakers were excellent and it’s especially encouraging to hear from people who have been in our shoes as researchers and gone on to successfully commercialise their idea.”

Kate McDonald, Chartered Patent Attorney at Capella IP Limited was one of the mentors, she added: “What a delight to spend some time working with bright, energetic science postgraduates on how best to protect their technical business ideas. Science and in particular commercialised science can benefit the young people themselves and society in general, and entrepreneurial training schemes such as these are an excellent way to facilitate this. We will see the benefits in a few years’ time as they complete their postgraduate training and head out into the workplace.”

The winning team and runner-up are now taking their ideas to the Energy YES sister competition, Engineering YES which takes place on 19 June 2013.

For more information about energy research and the Energy YES competition, join the LinkedIn group, Energy CDT Network.