Mar 182012

Project Joule Centre for Energy Research and Development
Partner University of Manchester
Lifetime 2005 – 2011
Funding NWDA / private / public £10.4m
The Joule Centre was launched in 2005 with the aims of:

  • Providing a resource for energy modelling in support of regional energy policy and strategy (Northwest Energy Council)
  • Increasing the regional capacity for energy technology R&D
  • Enhancing cooperation between academic and industrial R&D (with the ultimate aim of increasing the levels of commercialisation of energy related intellectual property)
  • Maximise the region’s participation inUK, EU and international R&D funding programmes

The Joule operating model was to provide R&D funding for regional universities and HEIs against competitive calls.  Priority was given to bids that included matched funding from other sources (especially industrial SMEs), and were judged to be of ‘value to the region’.  There was also an extensive programme of networking events and conferences to bring together the regional energy researchers. An independent evaluation of the Joule Centre was completed in December 2009, which rated the Joule Centre as a successful project in achieving its required outputs. 

Outputs 40 jobs created / safeguarded, 41 projects deliveredOther outputs included 57 businesses assisted on skills needs, 48 papers published, 24 workshops and conferences held
Lessons learned As originally envisaged, regional energy modelling would have proved to be very difficult given an almost complete lack of regional data collection.  A chair of energy modelling was planned but it proved impossible to recruit a suitable candidate.  With hindsight the regional energy modelling/strategic advice function would have been best performed under an independent project.More thorough research was required prior to the launch of the competitive calls – a call under the theme of ‘Demand Reduction’ (energy efficiency) received a very disappointing response.  It appears that where Joule added value was in areas where there was already a regional strength/reputation such as tidal energy and electricity networks.Early calls concentrated on quite large projects (~£100,000), later calls had a greater emphasis on smaller projects (<£50,000) which attracted a much greater participation from industrial partners reflecting their interest in near term R&D to solve specific needs/problems.In 2010, some additional junior staff were taken on to fulfil administrative roles and communication activities.  This resulted in improved targeting of the projects, increased market intelligence and better industrial engagement.Internships proved to be mutually beneficial – in assisting the running of Joule and in leading to long term employment for the interns.
Future outlook The project came to an end on 31st March 2011 however the Joule Centre is submitting an ERDF bid for continuation of the project with a focus on the development of a smart grid network for the Northwest.
Links The Joule Centre for Energy Research