Scientists in China and Europe partner to tackle climate change

Prof. Sir David Eastwood leads a press conference in Nanjing.

Scientists in China, Germany, and the UK are joining forces to find global solutions for delivering recycling solutions and low-carbon clean energy and reducing the environmental impact of waste – in a major international partnership.

Energy and raw materials experts at the University of Birmingham will work with counterparts at Jiangsu Industrial Technology Research Institute (JITRI) in Nanjing and the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental Safety and Energy Technology (UMSICHT) in Oberhausen, Germany.

The five-year bridge connecting the sister cities of Birmingham and Nanjing with energy and raw materials experts in Germany will see researchers develop new technologies such as energy storage solutions – allowing renewable power to be available ‘on tap’ – as well as energy sources and biofuels created from waste.

Spearheaded by £499,000 (¥4.4 Million) funding from Research England, as part of its International Investment Initiative (I3), the three partners have already invested £2.1 million (¥18.5m) between them to create this comprehensive research and innovation pipeline.

University of Birmingham Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir David Eastwood and Professor Qing Liu, President of JITRI, launched the new partnership at a special ceremony in Nanjing. The collaboration follows a partnership agreement signed between the University and JITRI in November 2016.

Professor Sir David Eastwood commented: “This innovative partnership represents a bridge between Birmingham, Germany and China that is already bringing enormous global benefit in an outstanding balance of research excellence and the capacity to create practical, commercially viable solutions to the world’s energy challenges.

“The University of Birmingham is renowned for its world-leading research and application of thermal energy systems and storage. Joining with Fraunhofer and JITRI adds expertise in developing raw materials and high value fuels from waste and the know-how to translate cutting-edge research to the global marketplace. “

“We are honoured to work with JITRI and Fraunhofer in helping to drive innovation and manufacturing progress, not just in China but around the world. We are also delighted to deepen still further the bonds between our sister cities of Birmingham and Nanjing.”

The partnership will also develop a highly-skilled workforce to support its research and development by developing PhD talent. Post-graduate students will be hosted at the University of Birmingham in their first year, spending time in Germany and China, before starting longer-term research projects within the partnership.

Professor Qing Liu, President of JITRI, commented: “Jiangsu Province is traditionally the manufacturing heart of China, but also has the highest concentration of energy companies. Of all the challenges to sustainability that the world faces, energy is the most important because given an abundant source of low cost, clean energy, most of the other problems can be solved. Energy storage is a particularly critical part of this challenge, given the intermittent nature of most clean, renewable energy sources.

“The fast-growing market of China and its capacity for rapid innovation offer unique opportunities for the development of sustainable energy infrastructure. We are excited to link the JITRI network of Research Institutes and Enterprise Innovation Centres with UMSICHT in Oberhausen, Germany and the University of Birmingham in the UK. The need for sustainable energy solutions crosses national borders, and I believe this new partnership will enable new solutions with global impact.”

Today’s agreement allows the three partners to work together on applied research projects that use the University and Fraunhofer UMSICHT’s research expertise to strengthen technological innovation in the Jiangsu Province and beyond. The partnership is intended to help both institutions work together on research, development and demonstration activities that will help to bring new products to global markets.

Prof. Dr. Andreas Hornung, Director of Fraunhofer UMSICHT, Institute Branch Sulzbach-Rosenberg, commented: “Fraunhofer UMSICHT stands for the provision of high quality energy carriers and raw materials from waste. In the research cooperation we intend to contribute our expertise in process engineering, especially in thermochemical conversion processes.

With our "Biobattery" approach, we are able to provide high-quality CO2-neutral fuels from waste biomass and critical raw materials from end-of-life products. Our goal is to implement our solutions for the energy and raw material transition all around the world. With this international research partnership, we strongly believe to come a good step closer to this goal.”

The three-way partnership follows an earlier ¥20,000,000 (£2.3m) agreement between the University of Birmingham and JITRI to develop innovative research in key areas such as nanoparticle technology and biomedicine.

JITRI sponsors research collaboration with Chinese and global universities in a range of areas, including: advanced materials; biotechnology and new medicine; environmental protection; next generation information technology and software; and innovative equipment manufacturing.

Notes to editors:

  • For more information, please contact Tony Moran, International Communications Manager, University of Birmingham on +44 (0) 121 414 8254 or +44 (0)782 783 2312. 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 and teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries
  • Based in Nanjing, JITRI, is a funding body set up in 2013 by Jiangsu Province Science and Technology Commission, and aims to support development of new industrial technologies via collaboration with national and international researchers.
  • Fraunhofer UMSICHT is a pioneer for sustainable energy and raw materials management by supplying and transferring scientific results into companies, society and politics. The dedicated UMSICHT team researches and develops, together with partners, sustainable products, processes and services, which inspire.
  • Research England shapes healthy, dynamic research and knowledge exchange in English universities. It is responsible for funding, engaging with and understanding these institutions, and working with devolved funding bodies and the Office for Students to understand their strategies, capabilities and capacity. It supports and challenges universities to create new knowledge, strengthen the economy, and enrich society - distributing over £2.2bn to universities in England every year in the form of quality-related research (QR) funding, and via the Higher Education Innovation Fund.