£18.9m funding to help reach the UK’s net zero targets

Nine new projects at research facilities and centres at UK universities will help the UK to reduce carbon emissions and reach net zero targets.

The University of York’s Institute for Safe Autonomy aims to utilise robots to set up, examine and sustain an array of solar panels. These solar panels are intended to deliver power to the institute.

As part of this novel project, the array will transform the centre into a living laboratory. Researchers are hopeful that the lab will be utilised to investigate methods to safely develop and deploy robotic and autonomous systems to manage various configurations of photovoltaic solar cells.

Funding for university centres and facilities

The Institute for Safe Autonomy at the University of York is one of nine projects at research facilities and centres at UK universities that are intended to enhance their sustainability. This has been made possible as a result of an impressive £18.9m funding boost.

The investment will support universities in improving research centres and facilities to lower their carbon emissions and ensure research processes are more sustainable.

The investment has been made by Research England, part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), alongside the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and Scottish Funding Council.

The centres and facilities obtaining funding were initially established through the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF), which is managed by Research England.

Reducing carbon emissions and reaching net zero

Funding has been awarded through a pilot initiative to investigate how existing UKRPIF-funded research centres and facilities can be improved to tackle net zero carbon emissions targets.

The projects that are receiving funding cover a wide range of research areas such as digital technology, robotics electronics and aerospace.

As well as this, the projects are in areas all around the UK. Likewise, they involve a broad range of methods to reduce carbon emissions.

For example, the project at the University of York will delve into the use of robotics and automation to establish and sustain solar panels.

Meanwhile, a project at Cranfield University intends to install equipment to massively reduce the greenhouse gas emissions linked to airports and aerospace technology. On top of this, a project at University of Strathclyde, will put equipment in place to produce medicines in a more environmentally friendly way.

As 23% of the UK’s carbon dioxide is produced by buildings and building usage, the nine projects will contribute to the government’s objectives to cut carbon emissions by 78% by 2035 and achieve net zero by 2050.

Supporting cutting-edge research

David Sweeney, Research England Executive Chair, commented: “The UK Research Partnership Investment Fund has a strong track record in funding state-of-art facilities that support world-leading research and strengthen partnerships between universities and other organisations active in research.

“By piloting these innovative approaches to tackling net zero in infrastructure, we hope that this scheme will help us to learn more about what works so that we and the higher education sector can factor this into future activity and build upon the already successful UKRPIF model.”

Professor Duncan Wingham, Executive Chair of Natural Environment Research Council and sponsor for environmental sustainability and net zero in UKRI, added: “Our environmental sustainability strategy commits UKRI to supporting the research sector to reduce its negative environmental impacts.

“This funding will help these leading national centres and facilities develop innovative solutions to reducing energy demand and increasing the use of renewable power in some unique research environments.

“UKRI is proud of its role in helping reduce carbon emissions from delivering cutting-edge research outputs in support of institutional and national net zero targets.”

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