Energy and Climate KTP Case Studies

The University of Birmingham is driving technological innovation to solve the challenges facing the UK as it seeks to develop sustainable energy solutions and respond to climate change. Below are some examples of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships which have used this expertise to deliver meaningful results for our company partners.

Birmingham City Council

Modelling the Birmingham Urban Heat Island effect

A Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between the University of Birmingham and Birmingham City Council helped the Council in providing the necessary evidence to ensure the effective delivery of the Council's long term vision that the City 'will be the UK's first sustainable global city with a low-carbon energy infrastructure and well prepared for the impact of climate change'. The KTP was able to quantify for the first time the combined impact of the 'Urban heat island' and climate change up to 2100 in Birmingham.

Urban heat island is the term used to describe the phenomenon of higher night-time temperature levels being recorded in metropolitan areas than those that are recorded in rural areas. This is mainly due to the fact that the building materials used in urban areas retain heat gained during the day and release it slowly at night. Observations of the heat island in Birmingham show that on some nights temperatures in the city can be 8°C higher, much stronger than the usual 1 or 2°C. This can put considerable heat stress on the built infrastructure and on individuals living in a city that has already experienced extreme weather events such as thunderstorms and tornadoes.

Cllr Paul Tilsley, Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: "The 2003 heatwave saw temperatures top 38.5°C nationally, which caused over 2,000 excess deaths in the UK. Research suggests these could be average summer temperatures by 2040 as our climate continues to warm and extreme weather becomes more frequent and intense - so we need to understand how future weather events will affect people's health and the city's infrastructure, which is exactly what this project will enable us to do."

Surprisingly the latest national climate change scenarios that are available do not take into account the urban heat island effect. Working with Professor John Thornes, Dr Xiaming Cai and Dr Lee Chapman in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Birmingham the KTP was able to review existing evidence in order to fill this gap. Climate modelling skills and expertise residing at the University were transferred to the City Council via an easy to use climate change adaptation planning tool called the BUCCANEER (Birmingham Urban Climate Change Adaptation with Neighbourhood Estimates of Environmental Risk).

Sandy Taylor

Head of Climate Change and Environment, Birmingham City Council

“The project will certainly put Birmingham at the forefront of research into understanding the impact of climate change at a neighbourhood level in cities. It will provide vital information for a range of Council services in the City as well as being key to the effective adaptive responses of Birmingham City Council partners, in particular the NHS.”



Assessing the effect of climate on electrical infrastructure

A Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between the University of Birmingham and Central Networks has helped the energy company to devise an effective asset-replacement strategy, adapt to climate change and provide a reliable ongoing service.

Central Networks, which is part of the E.ON group, distributes energy to 10m people in central England through 133,000km of underground and overhead cables and via almost 94,000 substations. Over 4,500 of these substation sites are in the Birmingham area, many of which contain transformers that were installed over 40 years ago.

If scientists can understand the various scenarios relating to climate change, including the effects of 'urban heat islands' (metropolitan areas which are significantly warmer than their surroundings), they can calculate the life cycles of Central Networks' transformers and come up with the best possible asset-replacement strategy.

Under the supervision of Dr Lee Chapman and Professor John Thornes in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, the partnership investigated the relationship between weather conditions and asset temperatures, allowing projections to be made for various climate scenarios so that asset life cycles can be approximated.

Robert Ferris

Innovation and Development Manager, Central Networks

“The KTP with the University of Birmingham should make a strong contribution to our future asset replacement strategy. Allowing Central Networks to determine how best to adapt to climate change impacts in urban areas will enable us to continue to provide a reliable network for our customers.”


Weatherite Manufacturing Ltd.

Developing low temperature absorption cooling systems

Based in West Bromwich, Weatherite Manufacturing Limited has established itself as one of the UK’s leaders in the design and manufacture of bespoke, energy efficient cooling solutions. With over 40 years of experience, the company is able to advise their customers on the most efficient way to meet their needs, while saving on cost and ensuring longevity.

Weatherite’s strategy is reliant on developing products that are environmentally friendly, safe, energy efficient and cost effective. Trigeneration energy, whereby a combustible material is used to generate electricity as well as provide heating and cooling services, was an area that they were keen to explore and develop their capability in. Yet the company was being held back by a reliance on technology that was 20 years old. Support was needed in order to innovate in this key area.

With access to the knowledge of Drs Raya Al-dadah, Saad Mahmoud and Karl Dearn, a postgraduate was employed on the project for two years. The postgrad, Ahmed Elsayed, was able to devote his full time to the project, gaining expertise that has helped to develop his career. In turn, the academics were able to establish a research group dedicated to studying adsorption technologies, as well as bring in further research and doctoral student funding.

Weatherite now has the necessary knowledge to develop low temperature cooling systems based on adsorption technology. The project also highlighted a number of other potential uses for the technology, with new markets now available both nationally and internationally. 

Paul Griffiths

Technical Director, Weatherite Manufacturing Ltd

“The KTP scheme has demonstrated the benefits of tapping into academic resource where more detailed research/analysis is required. We have learnt that a partnership of the more detailed and structured approach from academia can be successfully cross fertilised with the more practical and hands on approach from a manufacturing company.”


Further case studies by category