The University of Birmingham has announced plans to build a net zero carbon smart building and significantly expand its energy research and education.
The new building, on the University’s Edgbaston campus, will contain state of the art research laboratories. It will form the cornerstone of the University’s vision for a ‘living laboratory’, in which the campus is transformed into a national testbed for innovation in low carbon energy systems.
Once completed, the facility will be home to the University’s Birmingham Energy Institute (BEI), bringing together interdisciplinary energy research and education from across the University and its partners.
It will also provide a nerve centre for the University’s industrial collaborations, in which digital sensor and analytics technologies will be combined across the University’s campuses in Birmingham and Dubai to test new, low carbon approaches to energy generation and use.
Overall, the planned ‘living laboratory’ will form a testbed ecosystem at city scale, with the new building at its heart.
This new investment will put us in a position to bring transformational change to the sector. We are excited to be working with both existing and new partners to develop and test new innovations both technical and non-technical on a scale that is not currently available anywhere else in the UK.Professor Martin Freer, University of Birmingahm
Professor Martin Freer, Director of the BEI, said: “This is a truly ambitious step towards a net zero-carbon society. We are working with local, regional, national and international partners to unlock the deployment of solutions that will accelerate the energy transition. This new investment will put us in a position to bring transformational change to the sector. We are excited to be working with both existing and new partners to develop and test new innovations both technical and non-technical on a scale that is not currently available anywhere else in the UK.”
Energy research at the University of Birmingham has grown rapidly over the last decade with researchers leading developments in energy systems and storage, heating and cooling, materials irradiation, hydrogen fuel and future vehicle technologies, as well as in energy policy and investment.
Fusion and fission energy research is rapidly expanding on campus, with the opening of a nationally unique high-flux neutron facility, designed to support the development of materials and sensors needed for next generation nuclear energy facilities.
As COP28 approaches later this year, this development is indicative of the University’s commitment to drive research addressing global sustainability challenges.
Professor Toby Peters has expanded the reach of our research in ‘clean cold’ technologies, by leading research into sustainable cooling at the Africa Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Cooling and Cold-chain, in Rwanda.
Industry, key public sector partners and investors working with the BEI have enabled this expansion as well as the creation of a sister site Tyseley Energy Park, in East Birmingham. This future-focused energy park, established by the 300-year-old Birmingham manufacturing firm Webster and Horsfall, offers a wealth of opportunities for translating new technologies to pre-commercial scale.
This investment and facility very much supports our regional agenda – developing our research and technology capabilities, enhancing our preparedness for the Green Industrial Revolution and demonstrating public/private cooperation at its very best.Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands
Through the University’s partnership within the Innovate-UK-funded Energy Research Accelerator, universities across the Midlands Innovation Group, as well as UK government and industry partners are working together to shape the UK’s future energy landscape.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “Our region is helping to lead the way when it comes to tackling the climate emergency and that’s why we’ve made our #WM2041 net zero commitment. This investment and facility very much supports our regional agenda – developing our research and technology capabilities, enhancing our preparedness for the Green Industrial Revolution and demonstrating public/private cooperation at its very best.”
Speaking about the investment Councillor John Cotton, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “This investment will further the exciting work already being undertaken by the Birmingham Energy Institute that will help us to meet the challenge of decarbonising heating and providing clean energy. It is clear that we cannot meet our climate goals without changing the way that our domestic and industrial buildings are heated and powered, and this investment will help to unlock pioneering new technologies.
Construction on the new building is due to start in 2024.