Empowering future makers with £5.8million funding award for offshore wind innovation

12 March 2024

image of wind turbines at sun rise

£5.8million award to energise UK’s offshore wind ambitions led by the University of Hull

The University of Hull will lead a new research centre with the universities of Durham, Loughborough and Sheffield, advancing cutting-edge solutions to offshore wind challenges and driving the UK’s transition to net zero.

The multi-million-pound Government award, enhanced by offshore wind industry investment, will enable the consortium to harness talent, with opportunities for more than 65 post-graduate doctoral students over the next five years. It will develop a diverse range of future leaders for the sector, focused on maximising the potential of offshore wind.

It is part of the UK’s biggest-ever investment in engineering and physical sciences doctoral skills, totalling more than £1 billion in government, university and industry spend, announced today by Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan. This will fund 65 Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) CDTs to support leading research in areas of national importance including net zero, AI, defence and security, healthcare and quantum technologies.

The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Offshore Wind Energy Sustainability and Resilience led by the University of Hull’s Energy and Environment Institute, will unite over 40 industry partners, Durham University, Loughborough University, and the University of Sheffield.

A brilliant network of key industrial partners and universities

University of Hull Vice Chancellor, Professor Dave Petley said:

“I’m absolutely delighted that our new Centre for Doctoral Training has been funded. Offshore wind is a key part of the UK, and indeed the global, energy mix as we move to Net Zero. The Centre will play a key role in both developing the skills needed to drive this exciting technology and in providing underpinning research across a wide variety of activities in this field. It will continue to provide a brilliant network of key industrial partners and universities, allowing the UK to enhance its position as a world leader in offshore wind energy.”

The new Centre will combine the research power of each partner institution, drawing on academic strengths in engineering, environmental science, AI, socio-economics and human factors. CDT Director, Professor Robert Dorrell said:

“We are delighted in the award of this EPSRC CDT focused on offshore wind energy, which is now being developed at unprecedented scale in UK and global waters. Our CDT connects students from a diverse range of backgrounds, from engineering, environmental science and socio-economics, to deliver resilience in research addressing critical sector challenges. With the programme supported by continuous engagement with our key industry, policy and civic partners we will help develop the future leaders offshore wind urgently requires for the UK to meet net-zero 2050 targets.”

Further £12m partner investment

The Hull-led Centre is enhanced by an additional investment of over £12m from national and international offshore wind industry and university partners; investing in regional talent and skills and research excellence.

Over 40 offshore wind industry bodies have pledged their support for the new Centre, including match funding for up to 30 doctoral studentships that will be co-funded by industry sponsors. Jane Cooper, Director of Offshore Wind for RenewableUK, will Chair the CDT’s Strategic Advisory Board. Jane Cooper said:

“I’m delighted to accept this invitation to chair the Aura Centre of Doctoral Training (CDT) in Offshore Wind Sustainability and Resilience, and I’m grateful to the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) for the funding they are providing towards this. The CDT will deepen understanding on a wide range of key issues to support the development of the offshore wind sector, including the environmental impact of offshore wind, the economics and development of new supply chains, the growing use of automation and how to integrate offshore grid into the network. I’m confident that the students who will be researching these areas will, in time, provide the expertise and knowledge to develop the innovative solutions and future leadership which are needed to deliver UK’s ambitious offshore wind targets”.

Professor Dan Parsons, Pro Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation at Loughborough University said: “I am delighted that Loughborough University is a core partner this exciting new UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Offshore Wind Energy Sustainability and Resilience, which will advance research and innovation through transdisciplinary approaches that helps meet the needs and challenges of the offshore wind industry.”

Professor Charlotte Deane, Executive Chair of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, part of UKRI (Research and Innovation), said:

“The Centres for Doctoral Training announced today will help to prepare the next generation of researchers, specialists and industry experts across a wide range of sectors and industries.

“The high calibre of both the new centres and applicants is a testament to the abundance of research excellence across the UK, and EPSRC’s role as part of UK Research and Innovation is to invest in this excellence to advance knowledge and deliver a sustainable, resilient and prosperous nation.”

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council logo

The new CDT follows on from the hugely successful EPSRC-NERC CDT in Offshore Wind Energy and the Environment, awarded to University of Hull and partners in 2019. Through this award, the centre has already recruited and trained over 60 doctoral researchers who are innovating solutions to engineering and environmental issues. These include exploring whether VR could be key to mitigating debilitating sea-sickness, working with Siemens to improve wind turbine manufacturing, and finding ways to protect wind turbine power cables in order to safeguard the energy supply delivered to the national grid.

Logos for Universities of Hull, Durham, Loughborough and Sheffield plus RenewableUK

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