Clean cold experts’ multi-million funding boost for work in Africa

Experts leading research into sustainable cooling have received a multi-million pound boost for their work in Africa.

Man and woman pouring milk into a churn

Milk being collected from farmers in Africa - photo by Sam Peters Photography

Experts leading research into sustainable cooling have received a £9.5 million boost that secures work at the Africa Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Cooling and Cold-chain (ACES) until 2025.

Next phase funding from the UK Government will support further recruitment of lecturers, technicians and research associates on the ACES campus in Kigali, Rwanda. It also will fund additional equipment to help further explore clean cold-chains for food and health.

The DEFRA funding backs development of early-stage researcher and supervised PhD research programmes. It also supports the roll-out of further Specialized Outreach and Knowledge Establishment (SPOKE) hubs to share knowledge, technology demonstration and capacity building into other African markets - building on the first SPOKE being developed in Kenya.

Our work enables Africa’s communities to discover and unlock their economic potential and build cold-chain services for resilient and sustainable development."

Professor Toby Peters - Director, Centre for Sustainable Cooling at the University of Birmingham

Project lead Professor Toby Peters, Director, Centre for Sustainable Cooling at the University of Birmingham, commented: “Our work enables Africa’s communities to discover and unlock their economic potential and build cold-chain services for resilient and sustainable development.

“ACES can help to ensure that fresh produce reaches domestic and international consumers in its best condition, while reducing emissions, preserving natural resources and increasing farmers’ income.

Also, energy-efficient and sustainable cold logistics will help to reduce vaccine waste - this is important for traditional vaccines and health needs, but vital as we look to deploy new mRNA vaccines requiring sub-zero and potentially ultra-cold cold-chains.”

Working with its partners, ACES programmes delivered through the SPOKEs will:

  • Enable communities to build key cold-chain and cooling services using novel technologies; and
  • Support development of a strong network of skilled refrigeration engineers - supporting the transition to climate-friendly refrigerants.

Total UK funding to date for the programme is more than £16M and, alongside ACES, includes funding to provide the technical assistance to support the development of its second Centre of Excellence in Hyderabad, India, working with the Gov of Telangana.

The Centre for Sustainable Cooling, working with ACES co-lead, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is also organising a study tour to the UK in September for its Rwandan and Kenyan partners, which culminates in an international cold-chain summit at the University of Birmingham on 29 September.

Participants will include high level government officials from Rwanda Environment Management Authority, Rwanda Biomedical Centre, and National Agricultural Export Development Board. There will also be representatives of University of Rwanda, Integrated Polytechnic Regional College Kigali, and African Centre for Technology Studies (Kenya).

Delegates will visit cold-stores, ACES partner Cranfield University as well as Birmingham Energy Innovation Centre at Tyseley Energy Park. This will help to build collaboration from BEIC to ACES and a corridor to the Africa market for UK clean cooling and refrigeration technology and service providers and innovators.

The international cold-chain summit will see research, industry and government partners from the UK, EU and Africa coming together to share knowledge and discuss how best to create sustainable, equitable and resilient cold-chains for food and health globally. Anyone wishing to take part should email conference co-ordinator Sehar Amer at (please note - with a focus on discussion and engagement, places are being limited).

Notes for editors

  • For more information, please contact Tony Moran, International Communications Manager, University of Birmingham on +44 (0)782 783 2312 or For out-of-hours enquiries, please call +44 (0) 7789 921 165.
  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.

In Rwanda, as an example:

  • 73% of the total workforce in Rwanda are employed in agriculture (82% of the female workforce with 82%) contributing to 24% GDP.
  • Agriculture in Rwanda is dominated by six million small and marginal farmers; cultivated land per family farm is 0.6ha.
  • According to the World Bank, food losses represents 12% annual GDP.
  • Only 5% of firms in the food and agriculture sector have refrigerated trucks, while 9% have a cold room to store fresh produce. For small and marginal farmers, where the majority of post-harvest food losses occur, functional cold chains are completely absent (less than 1% of cold-chain capacity).
  • 2/3rds of farmers do not have grid access.
  • 62% of farmers cannot afford cooling technology due to high initial investments.