EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Bioenergy

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Chemical and Process Engineering

Abstract

This world-leading Centre for Doctoral Training in Bioenergy will focus on delivering the people to realise the potential of biomass to provide secure, affordable and sustainable low carbon energy in the UK and internationally. Sustainably-sourced bioenergy has the potential to make a major contribution to low carbon pathways in the UK and globally, contributing to the UK's goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 and the international mitigation target of a maximum 2 degrees Celsius temperature rise. Bioenergy can make a significant contribution to all three energy sectors: electricity, heat and transport, but faces challenges concerning technical performance, cost effectiveness, ensuring that it is sustainably produced and does not adversely impact food security and biodiversity. Bioenergy can also contribute to social and economic development in developing countries, by providing access to modern energy services and creating job opportunities both directly and in the broader economy. Many of the challenges associated with realising the potential of bioenergy have engineering and physical sciences at their core, but transcend traditional discipline boundaries within and beyond engineering. This requires an effective whole systems research training response and given the depth and breadth of the bioenergy challenge, only a CDT will deliver the necessary level of integration. Thus, the graduates from the CDT in Bioenergy will be equipped with the tools and skills to make intelligent and informed, responsible choices about the implementation of bioenergy, and the growing range of social and economic concerns.

There is projected to be a large absorptive capacity for trained individuals in bioenergy, far exceeding current supply. A recent report concerning UK job creation in bioenergy sectors concluded that there "may be somewhere in the region of 35-50,000 UK jobs in bioenergy by 2020" (NNFCC report for DECC, 2012). This concerned job creation in electricity production, heat, and anaerobic digestion (AD) applications of biomass. The majority of jobs are expected to be technical, primarily in the engineering and construction sectors during the building and operation of new bioenergy facilities. To help develop and realise the potential of this sector, the CDT will build strategically on our research foundation to deliver world-class doctoral training, based around key areas: [1] Feedstocks, pre-processing and safety; [2] Conversion; [3] Utilisation, emissions and impact; [4] Sustainability and Whole systems. Theme 1 will link feedstocks to conversion options, and Themes 2 and 3 include the core underpinning science and engineering research, together with innovation and application. Theme 4 will underpin this with a thorough understanding of the whole energy system including sustainability, social, economic public and political issues, drawing on world-leading research centres at Leeds. The unique training provision proposed, together with the multidisciplinary supervisory team will ensure that students are equipped to become future leaders, and responsible innovators in the bioenergy sector.

Planned Impact

Impacts and benefits to the Non-Academic Users of the Centre include:
- Access to high quality, interdisciplinary R&D support to increase competitiveness
- Cutting edge research with high value for money;
- Access to knowledge and expertise;
- Recruitment from a pool of talented early-career students for future employment, and input into shaping the skill development of those students (engineers and scientists with training in the wider context of sustainability, economics, policy and commercial awareness).
- Technology transfer research;
- Access to a breadth or research facilities and expertise and interdisciplinary teams;
- Consultancy,
- Networking and participating in focussed forums with other technolgogy users and policy makers - sharing experiences;
- Training or secondments of their staff for enhanced knowledge transfer;
- Partnerships in innovation in the sector;
- Access to assessments of technolgoies and innovation with the best chance of a positive impact to society;

Impacts and benefits to Academic users in the fields of [1] Feedstocks, pre-processing and safety; [2] Conversion; [3] Utilisation, emissions and impact; [4] Sustainability and Whole systems, include:
- Access to and collaboration in world-leading, transformative research, which advances knowledge concerning innovative bioenergy technologies, sustainability and social acceptability, and policy mechanisms for acheiving these;
- Development of new collaborations and leaverage of further funding to support their activities;
- Access to knowledge and expertise and networking and dissemination events;
- Research exchange opportunities for mutual benefit and cross-fertilisation of ideas and innovation

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