The Cold Economy

Effective cooling is essential to preserve food and medicines. It is key within sustainable urbanisation, it underpins economic growth, and provides a ladder out of rural poverty. However, unmanaged growth in cooling, especially in emerging and fast-growing markets, represents one of the largest threats to climate goals, natural resources and energy resilience. Meeting societal and technological needs for cooling and increasing demand in developed and developing economies without catastrophic environmental impact requires the development of sustainable and equitable ‘clean cooling’ energy systems and technologies. 

Led by Professor Toby Peters and Professor Yulong Ding, the University of Birmingham is a recognised global leader in clean cooling and cold chain energy strategy, encompassing policy, business models, technology and research development. In total the University has a team of some 50 academics and researchers engaged across a broad spectrum of ‘clean cooling’ research activity in the UK and developing markets in India, China and other countries. CSC Logo 300

In 2019, the University and partners launched the multi-disciplinary Centre for Sustainable Cooling that brings together a broad consortium of academic institutions from across the globe. Led by co-Directors Professors Toby Peters and Yulong Ding, the aim of the Centre is to work collaboratively to develop new systems approaches to deliver sustainable solutions that manage growing demand for cooling whilst ensuring access to cooling for all. Systems approaches will integrate technological, policy, social, economic, energy, finance and business pathways in a developing portfolio of research projects. University of Birmingham is currently recruiting a PDRA and Lecturer into The Centre for Sustainable Cooling; other partner Universities are also recruiting new researchers.  

What are we doing to solve this?

The Cold Economy is the development of cohesive and integrated (technology agnostic) system-level strategies to mitigate demand and meet cooling needs sustainably within our climate change, natural resource and clean air targets, while supporting economy growth.

This involves understanding the multiple cooling needs and the size and location of the thermal, waste and wrong-time energy resources to define the novel energy vectors, thermal stores, clean cooling technologies and novel business models, policy and societal interventions to optimally integrate those resources and cooling needs through self-organising systems. 

As we begin to realise the enormous scale of our future need for cooling across the globe, and the impact it will have on our energy systems and natural environment, people are increasingly asking “what do we mean by ‘clean cooling’?”.

With Dr Tim Fox, Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor in Clean Energy and Public Engagement at Exeter University, colleagues in the Birmingham Energy Institute and others, we have drafted a statement on Clean Cooling (PDF). We welcome comments on the description. Please send your comments to

Professor Toby Peters, Professor in Cold Economy and Fellow of the Institute for Global Innovation.   

BEI logo lockup
University of Birmingham The Institute for Global Innovation logo lockup