Home / energy sector north east

Energy Innovation Challenge: Jumping Rivers

Esther Gillespie, Director of data science consultancy Jumping Rivers, explains how taking part in the Energy Innovation Challenge has opened up opportunities and funding for the business.

“I would totally recommend getting in contact with the North East Energy Catalyst, and certainly the Innovation Challenge has really been an exciting development for our company,” says Esther.

Find out about the Energy Innovation Challenge programme here.

Home / energy sector north east

£3 million funding awarded to Northumberland robotics test site

Funding has been awarded to support the creation of a new test site for emerging robotics technology in Northumberland, which is set to be the first centre of its type in the UK.

The Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) Test Site, which is being developed by the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult in Blyth, has been awarded £3 million from the government’s Getting Building Fund, which is managed in the region by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Gillian Hall, Chair of the North East LEP Innovation Board, said: “This new test site will put the North East at the centre of robotics innovation for the offshore industry, helping to develop new technologies which have the potential to be used worldwide.

“The Getting Building Fund is there to create new jobs and help the economy recover from the impact of the pandemic, and this project will brings jobs and investment to the region, helping to build a stronger, more sustainable North East.”

Matthew Hadden, Deputy Head of Delivery at ORE Catapult, said: “As the offshore renewable sector continues to grow, some of the largest costs are carrying out inspections, maintenance and installation activities offshore. It’s expensive and potentially dangerous.

“There’s a role for robotics to play in improving these processes and a real drive within the industry to adopt this new technology over the next five to 10 years – our aim is to support and accelerate innovation in robotics here in the North East, and see it in action in UK waters.”

The RAS Test Site will accelerate the demonstration, testing and evaluation of new technologies and will also provide links with ORE Catapult’s team of experts in research, innovation and operational maintenance.

The centre will be equipped with both onshore and offshore demonstration facilities, helping SMEs, universities and other developers of new technologies to develop new products and bring them to market.

“We have an incredibly strong offshore and subsea energy sector in the North East, particularly in oil and gas, and the RAS Test Site will play a big role in our ability to support the transition to renewables. This funding from the Getting Building Fund is vital in bringing forward new technologies developed in the North East,” added Matthew.

The North East LEP region was awarded £47m through the Getting Building Fund with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership increasing the fund to £55m by releasing an additional £8m from the North East Investment Fund.

The 17 projects put forward for the North East LEP area are expected to create more than 4,000 construction and permanent jobs; unlock more than 19,000 sqm of commercial space; assist more than 3,000 learners; improve or construct 4.2km of roads, cycle lanes and walkways; and further strengthen the North East’s green energy sector.

The government’s £900m Getting Building Fund was announced in August 2020 to provide investment in shovel-ready infrastructure projects across the country.

For more information about the Getting Building Fund, visit www.gov.uk.

Image: BladeBUG is one such repair and maintenance robot making leaps in offshore robotics capabilities. Image courtesy of BladeBUG.

Home / energy sector north east

The Energy Innovation Challenge – TRL9

“Overall we’ve had a great experience with the programme and we’re really excited to get to our second level prototype with the solar fluidics project.”

Research and development specialist TRL9 was one of the North East businesses that took part in the Energy Innovation Challenge, making new connections within the energy sector. Here’s their story.

The Energy Innovation Challenge (round 3) is open for entries until Friday 26 February and SMEs are invited to put forward applications based on the use of materials in any aspect of electricity, gas and water infrastructure, such as pipes, valves or cables.

Find out more here.

Home / energy sector north east

Catalysing energy innovation in the North East

It’s been just over a year since I began my role as Energy Innovation Partnership Manager at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), helping to showcase the outstanding facilities our region has for energy innovation and demonstration.

I work closely with 12 other organisations that together make up the North East Energy Catalyst – a partnership that unites the leading energy demonstration capabilities in our region, meaning we can work together to show that the North East is the location of choice for anyone who wants to test new energy innovations.

Despite the unexpected events that 2020 threw at us, it was still a year in which we built up a real momentum in showing what our region has to offer, and it was gratifying to see that, when the government announced its Green Industrial Revolution plan, and released its white paper, Powering our net zero future, at the end of last year, the North East was already positioned to lead the way on the UK’s Net Zero agenda.

There are exciting projects underway in a number of areas, including the use of hydrogen as a low carbon fuel, and the use of heat pumps, which are being demonstrated on a large scale in Newcastle.

And we’ve identified a route for the North East to push itself forward even further, through the North East Future Energy System Today (North East-FEST) programme, which identifies the sectors and the global energy challenges which will allow the North East to lead the way to a decarbonised future for the UK.

A skilled workforce is obviously crucial to our energy sector so we’re also working closely with colleagues in the North East LEP skills team to understand the skills needed as the sector evolves due to decarbonisation.

A real highlight of last year was awarding £100,000 of funding to SMEs in our region to help them develop new products through the Energy Innovation Challenge programme. The programme invites SMEs to put forward solutions to a number of different challenges that the energy sector is facing, such as how to best use data to monitor energy use and carbon footprints, or how to find alternatives to diesel generators for powering off-grid homes.

The programme launched in March 2020 and the response has been fantastic, and a testament to the brilliant people we have working in our region. Five SMEs have now received funding (find out who they are here), we’re currently working with another cohort who entered the second round of the challenge, and the third and final round is open for entries now – so if your business might be able to develop a new way of using materials in any aspect of any part of our electricity, gas or water infrastructure, then you could be awarded up to £40,000 to make the idea a reality. Find out how to enter the Energy Innovation Challenge here.

All this progress is thanks to the hard work of the North East Energy Catalyst partners, and the many other businesses who have been a part of our work in 2020. I hope that in 2021 we can build on what’s been achieved and involve even more businesses in our aim of showing that the North East is the place to do business for energy innovators.

Find out more about the Energy Innovation Challenge.

Home / energy sector north east

Blyth solar business steps up production of new solar module

Solar Capture Technologies is a Blyth-based business with more than 38 years’ experience in solar research, development and manufacturing. The team aims to empower generations to use clean and renewable solar power solutions, and to make solar accessible to everyone. Lewis Caseley, Commercial Manager, explains how connections made through the North East Energy Catalyst are helping to take their new product to the next level.

 

How did you first make contact with the North East Energy Catalyst?

We saw the call-out for businesses to enter the North East Energy Catalyst’s Energy Innovation Challenge earlier this year and the theme of the challenge – which was all about reducing carbon emissions – fitted well with our business and the new technology we’re developing.

We’re working on a new product based on a lightweight solar material made from polymers and we’re now at the stage of wanting to access funding and demonstration sites, and get the product in front of the right people, and we thought that the Energy Innovation Challenge could help us do this.

Can you tell us more about Solar Capture Technologies and the products you’re developing?

The business has its roots in research and over the years we’ve worked with multiple research bodies and universities. More recently, we’ve moved more towards developing our own products and already have our solar panels in place on emergency roadside phones, ticket machines and bollards across the country’s road network.

Our latest product in development is the SolarFace which combines our advanced solar harvesting technology with high performance composite materials.

What makes your product different from what’s already out there?

SolarFace modules are really lightweight which means they can be used almost anywhere – not only on buildings but on cars, on commercial vehicles like ambulances, offshore, and we’re even working on a floating unit.

They are a quarter of the weight of traditional solar modules and can be manufactured to fit any shape. For example, when used on housing or commercial buildings, the panel forms the fabric of the roof as well as generating power.

We’ve also designed the product to operate at the lowest light levels, so they continue to generate energy through the winter.

It’s a ground-breaking product and to take the product to volume manufacture we needed investment and access to networks.

What happened as a result of entering the Energy Innovation Challenge?

The challenge went live just as the UK entered lockdown so the events we attended with the rest of the cohort were online. We’ve met other SMEs operating in the energy sector and made some interesting connections.

We’re also now applying for funding through the North East LEP’s Energy for Growth programme and working with David Lynch, the North East LEP’s Energy Innovation Partnership Manager, to make connections with organisations in the social housing and transport world, which will help us to secure sites to demonstrate SolarFace’s capabilities.

What’s next for you?

The profile of solar power is increasing as more and more people are looking for new ways to generate power and reduce carbon emissions. At the same time, businesses are beginning to understand how solar can help to save them money and improve their products.

There’s huge potential for us within the automotive industry, transport, public spaces and education, and we’re working with partners to demonstrate the possibilities for SolarFace – for example, we’ve created benches made from recycled plastic which incorporate the solar panels and can be used for phone charging, to boost wifi networks or to power lighting.

We’re also investing in upgrading our factory facilities and moving to mass manufacturing and automation which will make the product far more competitive.

The North East Energy Catalyst is ground-breaking partnership to unite the North East’s leading energy innovation, demonstration and delivery capabilities. Read more about the partnership here.

Round two of the Energy Innovation Challenge is currently underway, with 10 submissions from North East SMEs. Round three, on the theme of energy materials, will open in January 2021. To find out more, contact David Lynch on [email protected].

The North East Energy Catalyst is supported by ERDF and the Energy Innovation Challenge received grant funding from the government’s Local Growth Fund via the North East LEP.

It is facilitated by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), and North East Energy Catalyst partners are: Newcastle University; Durham University; Northumbria University; Zero Carbon Futures (a subsidiary of Gateshead College); Northern Powergrid; Northern Gas Networks; The Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult; The British Engines Group; Innovation SuperNetwork; Northumbrian Water; The North of Tyne Combined Authority; The North East Combined Authority.

The North East Energy Catalyst is supported by ERDF and the Energy Innovation Challenge received grant funding from the government’s Local Growth Fund via the North East LEP.

 

Home / energy sector north east

Investment on offer to help SMEs develop tech solutions to energy challenges

Up to £40,000 of investment is on offer to SMEs in the North East who can put forward digital or data-led solutions to help monitor and manage energy consumption.

The Energy Innovation Challenge is led by the North East Energy Catalyst, a partnership of leading energy sector organisations which aims to develop solutions to global energy challenges here in the North East.

David Lynch, Innovation Partnership Manager at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) who supports the work of the Energy Catalyst, explained: “Working with the North East Energy Catalyst is a unique opportunity for innovative SMEs given the strength and breadth of this region’s energy sector, which includes leaders in energy businesses, science and research and key infrastructure organisations.”

“We’re excited to be launching a series of energy innovation challenges throughout 2020 and 2021, inviting SMEs within the North East LEP area to submit responses to each challenge.”

A cohort of up to 10 successful businesses per challenge will be identified by an expert panel, drawing on the North East Energy Catalyst partners’ expertise. The successful cohort will receive a programme of support which will help them develop their idea and bring it to market.

This will include £20,000 of investment from Northstar Ventures, subject to eligibility criteria, which will be offered to 10 businesses across the programme, and the opportunity to submit matched grant applications for Local Growth Funding of up to a further £20k.

The next challenge is open for applications until noon on 18 September 2020 and SMEs are invited to put forward data or digital-led solutions that can help businesses to track energy consumption, or that can be used at sites like airports, ports and business parks to help manage energy savings.

David Lynch added: “This is an exciting opportunity for our colleagues in the digital, tech and energy sectors to take the lead on a new wave of energy solutions.

“The North East has a strong pedigree of innovation in power and energy generation, from steam, to electricity and now sustainable technologies, each of which has made a significant impact in the international economy. We are a force to be reckoned with in the energy sector and this is a great opportunity for digital and tech businesses to engage with partners working on the global energy stage.”

More details about the challenge are available here or from David Lynch on [email protected].

The North East Energy Catalyst is a ground-breaking partnership to unite the North East’s leading energy innovation, demonstration and delivery capabilities. Facilitated by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), North East Energy Catalyst partners are: Newcastle University; Durham University; Northumbria University; Zero Carbon Futures (a subsidiary of Gateshead College); Northern Powergrid; Northern Gas Networks; The Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult; The British Engines Group; Innovation SuperNetwork; Northumbrian Water; The North of Tyne Combined Authority; The North East Combined Authority.

   

Home / energy sector north east

North East energy projects awarded Energy for Growth funding

Four projects which will support national energy policy goals and boost economic growth in the North East have been awarded funding from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (North East LEP’s) Energy for Growth Fund.

The first four projects to receive Energy for Growth funding are: Hydrogen for Heat, Hexham Hydro, Northumbria University Fabrication (NU-FAB) and the North East Geothermal Assessment.

Andrew Clark, North East LEP Energy Programme Lead, explains: “The Energy for Growth Fund was launched in September to support projects which will drive economic growth in our region. I’m delighted that the first projects to be successful have now been awarded funding, with further projects going through appraisal.

“The expressions of interest we received demonstrated that there’s a strong pipeline of projects in our region which not only have the potential to benefit businesses and communities, but which also demonstrate the region’s ability to deliver on national energy strategy.”

At Northumbria University, NU-FAB is an open-access rapid fabrication facility for prototyping opto-electronic components which can be used in sustainable energy applications and beyond. Over the next two years, regional businesses will be able to access NU-FAB to achieve proof-of-concept R&D without charge.

Neil Beattie, Associate Professor at Northumbria University, said: “The Energy for Growth fund provides a great opportunity for Northumbria University to support regional businesses via the provision of key R&D services that have the potential to create new revenue streams.“

NU-FAB uniquely offers combined inkjet printing and photonic curing capabilities, which can be used in the creation of components such as electrodes, barrier layers and transparent conductors.

Businesses with an interest in using NU-FAB should contact Dr Neil Beattie at Northumbria University on [email protected].

The Hexham Hydro project is investigating the feasibility of using hydro-energy from the River Tyne to provide power for Wentworth Leisure Centre. The study by Northumberland County Council is part of the council’s climate change commitment and its drive to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

The third funded project is the North East Geothermal Assessment, which is a study by Newcastle University into the geothermal resource potential across the North East Local Enterprise Partnership area.

The study will use existing data, including heritage data from coal exploration and oil and gas exploration, to build a subsurface model to evaluate potential deep geothermal energy resources. It will help understand the opportunities for geothermal energy to be part of integrated local energy systems.

Mark Ireland, Lecturer in Energy Geosciences at Newcastle University, said: “Currently, across the UK, deep geothermal energy and heat pumps account for only around 5% of renewable energy. Emissions from heating are the largest source of emissions in the UK and geothermal energy has the potential to make a significant contribution to decarbonising heating, while providing new economic opportunities, across the North East.”

The fourth project, Hydrogen for Heat, is centred around a hydrogen powered combined heat and power (CHP) system and will create a laboratory here in the North East. The project will establish a facility at Durham University to demonstrate hydrogen fuelled heating, storage and power generation with potential commercial applications.

Dr Andrew Smallbone, Associate Professor at Durham University, said:

“Hydrogen is central to enabling the UK economy to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Building upon our existing capability in this area, the new laboratory will take an internationally leading role in decarbonising heating and hydrogen technologies.

“One opportunity is the co-generation of heat and electrical power which in combination yields a very high efficiency solution. We will use the laboratory to advance and demonstrate one such system which is powered by both natural gas and/or hydrogen.”

The projects have been supported through the North East Energy for Growth strategy, which aims to drive economic growth in the North East while bringing sector partners together to deliver at scale on national energy strategy.

The strategy identifies 13 themes where the North East can both contribute to national policy and bring more and better jobs to the region, ranging from low-emission transport to heat networks, and geothermal energy from old mine workings.

A further energy project has also received funding via the North East LEP’s innovation project development fund. The InTEGReL site (Integrated Transport Electricity and Gas Research Laboratory) has been awarded funding to undertake detailed design work for a proposed Customer Energy Village. The Customer Energy Village (CEV) will see construction of several properties typical to the UK’s current housing stock, to allow retrofitting of various multi-vector energy solutions on site.

Led by Northern Gas Networks in partnership with Newcastle University, Northern Powergrid, Northumbrian Water, Siemens and 3 Mobile, InTEGReL is a fully integrated whole energy systems development and demonstration facility.  It will provide a space for academia, SMEs and government to explore and test new energy technologies and policy across an integrated energy system.

The North East Energy for Growth strategy received £1.2m from the Government’s Local Growth Fund. The Local Growth Fund is supporting major capital investments to promote innovation, economic and skills infrastructure and sustainable transport as part of the North East Growth Deal.

Read about the North East Energy for Growth strategy.

Home / energy sector north east

Energy for Growth team expanded through new appointments

Two new appointments have been made at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to drive forward the region’s energy strategy and help to accelerate economic growth in the North East.

David Lynch joins the team as Energy Innovation Partnership Manager and Josh Sawyer has been appointed as Rural Energy Officer.

They will be working with Andrew Clark who is already in post at the North East LEP as Energy Programme Lead. Andrew said: “We have recently launched the region’s new energy strategy, Energy for Growth, which aims to bring new economic opportunities to our region. We’re now taking the strategy into delivery, and have brought in David and Josh, both with great expertise in the energy sector, to work with partners to deliver on our ambitions for the North East.”

David Lynch brings with him 15 years’ experience of working within the energy sector, including roles at National Energy Action and the Energy Systems Catapult, where he managed test and demonstration projects to deploy new low carbon technologies. He will now be working with members of the newly-formed North East Energy Catalyst, which unites the region’s leading energy partners to showcase how the North East can deliver solutions to global energy challenges.

David, who completed an MA at the University of Durham, said: “As the country moves towards achieving net zero carbon emissions, I’m looking forward to showing that the North East can be a centre of excellence in clean growth and decarbonisation through its energy assets.”

The Energy Innovation Partnership Manager role is part funded by European Regional Development Funding, via the Innovation SuperNetwork’s ‘Catalysing Innovation in North East Clusters’ project.

As Rural Energy Officer, Josh Sawyer will support development and delivery of rural energy projects across the North East LEP region, addressing the specific challenges and opportunities that rural areas face, and specifically assisting community-led projects across both the North East and Tees Valley to access the Government’s Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF). RCEF funding is being delivered via the BEIS North East Yorkshire & Humber Energy Hub, including part funding for the role.

“The North East has a large and varied rural area and I’ve worked with communities across the region in my previous roles within the energy industry,” said Josh. “Decarbonisation is a huge change which will affect all our businesses and communities over the coming years and it’s my role to make sure that our rural areas are a key part of this.”

Andrew Clark added: “Everything we do contributes towards our ultimate mission of bringing North East partners together to deliver on national energy policy and bring more and better jobs to the North East. I’m extremely happy to welcome David and Josh to the team, and looking forward to continuing our work with businesses, academia and communities across the North East.”

The North East Energy for Growth strategy identifies 13 themes where the North East can both contribute to national policy and bring more and better jobs to the region, ranging from low-emission transport to heat networks, and geothermal energy from old mine workings.

Read about the North East Energy for Growth strategy.

Home / energy sector north east

Showcasing clean energy innovation across the Northern Powerhouse

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is a sponsor of the Energy and Clean Growth in the Northern Powerhouse event – a major, two-day event to showcase the innovation, leadership and opportunities across the North of England in energy, decarbonisation, transition and clean growth.

Andrew Clark, Energy Programme Lead at the North East LEP, talks about the role the North has to play in the clean energy revolution.

Next week I’ll be attending the Northern Powerhouse Energy and Clean Growth conference, along with the Chair of the North East LEP, Andrew Hodgson, and various North East partners including those from the newly formed North East Energy Catalyst.

The Northern Powerhouse has long been the engine room of the UK and today, the region is poised to lead the transition to clean energy. The North also has a critical role to play in responding to new demands which are being placed on the country’s energy systems and infrastructure, and new innovations and intelligence in response to these.

Here in the North East, the energy sector is embedded in the fabric of our region. It’s a key part of our regional economy and our North East Energy for Growth strategy lays out how partners in the region are coming together to deliver on national energy strategy and drive economic growth.

Next week’s conference aims to showcase some of the innovation and opportunities across the Northern Powerhouse when it comes to decarbonisation and the transition to clean growth. As part of this, we will be sharing details of the North East Energy Catalyst and explaining how this new partnership has been formed to showcase solutions to global energy challenges in the North East, and to catalyse an integrated energy system which grows a productive and clean economy.

The Catalyst includes partners from industry, academia, the public sector and government bodies and we’re excited at what we can achieve by bringing together our energy innovation, demonstration and delivery assets in this way.

The energy sector has a crucial role to play in the future of the Northern Powerhouse, allowing the region to contribute to the national agenda, creating more and better jobs, and allowing the North to prosper.

I’m looking forward to forming new collaborations across the Northern Powerhouse region and to exploring how we can make our North East energy infrastructure and assets, like those brought together through the North East Energy Catalyst, available to the wider North and the rest of the UK.

Andrew Clark, Energy Programme Lead, North East LEP.

Energy and Clean Growth in the Northern Powerhouse takes place on 5 and 6 November in Hull. Find out more.