Gordon Brown today announced a £1 billion public/private partnership to build a ‘National Institute for Energy Technologies’ in his Budget.
Echoing the words of Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Imperial’s deputy rector, the Chancellor said that he believed the UK ‘has the capacity to be a world leader in energy technologies’. The announcement of the creation of the institute ties in with Imperial’s ambition to research biofuels and other sustainable energy sources at its proposed Wye Park. In November, Imperial launched its own ‘Energy Futures Lab’ to research technologies ‘such as carbon capture, fossil fuel engineering, renewable energy resources and fuel cells’. Imperial is also collaborating with BP — one of the companies identified by Mr Brown as expressing an interest in the national institute — on its £4.5 million Urban Energy Systems project, an initiative to study how energy is used by cities and how communities can use power, heating, transport and water more efficiently or how communities can be arranged to reduce commuting traffic.
The man in charge of the Urban Energy Systems project is Professor David Fisk, of Imperial’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, who was the seconded to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister as its chief scientific adviser until last month.
Man at the heart of government: Imperial’s Professor David Fisk
Today’s Budget states that the new national institute ‘will be a 50:50 public-private partnership. The Energy Research Partnership has committed to raising substantial sums of private investment, sufficient for the institute to have critical mass, and BP, EDF Energy, E.On [the German owner of Powergen] and Shell have already announced their intention to be involved. The intention is that the private sector investment would be matched by public science and technology investment, building on the Research Councils’ growing energy programmes — a model that has proved extremely effective with other large-scale research and development projects’.
‘The intention is to establish a virtual institute with a “design life” of a finite period, probably a decade, with clear objectives specified over that time. Funding would be allocated competitively, using existing facilities where possible, but also building strong national and international linkages’.