Afghanistan mining advice
Energy spin outs
Climate change – challenge and solutions
Innovative environmentally friendly products
Environment: UK research
discovered the hole in the ozone layer, crucial evidence for a ban on CFCs, with
an estimated benefit to the UK economy of up to £42 million.
British Antarctic Survey (BAS) scientists discovered the hole in the ozone layer
in 1985. Their discovery, based on long-term observations of data, led to an appreciation
that human activity was having a significant and negative impact on the global environment.
They provided a crucial part of the evidence for a ban on chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
and gave impetus to the implementation of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that
Deplete the Ozone Layer. This international policy is now helping reduce skin cancer
cases around the world. Independent consultant PricewaterhouseCoopers has estimated
the benefit to the UK economy could be as much as £42 million.
In 2008, Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funded scientists announced
the policy has slowed global temperatures rises – evidence that the impacts of science
are often not clear until many years after the initial research.
Back to top
Afghanistan mining advice: The British
Geological Survey, working with DFID, has helped to map copper deposits worth about
£19 billion, thus enabling the Afghan government to take advantage of natural resources
where mining is one of the best prospects for economic development, in turn supporting
UK Government security policy.
Beneath an old al-Qaeda training camp close to the outskirts of Kabul, British Geological
Survey (BGS) scientists and colleagues in Afghanistan have identified a vast copper
deposit that could be worth £19 billion to the war-torn country’s shattered economy.
The UK team of geologists has been assisting the Afghanistan Geological Survey over
the past two years to interpret geological data. The group has created a detailed
three-dimensional model of the deposit. The untapped deposits are estimated to be
worth more than double Afghanistan’s entire gross domestic product (GDP) in 2007.
To help capitalise on this world-class resource, BGS and the World Bank worked with
the Afghanistan Ministry of Mines to prepare a new minerals law to enable effective
and efficient management of an emerging mining industry. Decades of war had reduced
the Afghanistan Geological Survey to a shadow of its former self. BGS has helped
revitalise the organisation. This culminated in the opening of the refurbished building
in August 2006.
Back to top
Energy spin outs: Ceres power was formed
from Imperial College in 2001 after ten years of RCUK funded research on materials
and devices, and is now an AIM (Alternative Investment Market) listed company employing
70 staff, working with British Gas to develop a fuel cell microchip product for
the UK market.
Ceres Power was established in May 2001 and acquired fuel cell intellectual property
rights developed over the preceding ten years by Imperial College. The company has
since gone on to develop practical, mass manufacturable fuel cells designed to work
with a range of fuels including LPG, natural gas, methanol, hydrogen and vehicle
fuels. Ceres is now integrating the technology into complete systems and products,
for applications such as domestic combined heat and power, vehicle auxiliary power
units and efficient off-grid power generation. Ceres Power has raised over £25 million
of funding through two rounds of private equity and an AIM IPO in November 2004.
The company enjoys the support of many blue chip City institutions as financial
backers including Fidelity, Morley and JP Morgan.
Back to top
Climate change – challenge and solutions:
RCUK researchers were at the forefront of establishing that global warming is caused
by human activity. Recent scientific efforts have included contributing evidence
for the 2009 Copenhagen Summit and the Stern Review. Significant inputs have been
made by RCUK funded researchers.
Likely consequences in the UK from global warming are temperatures estimated to
rise by up to 2-3.5°C by 2080. Winters will become wetter and summers drier, sea
levels will rise, extreme sea levels may become more frequent and cloud cover in
the south may reduce, increasing the risk of skin cancer. More heatwaves are predicted,
increasing heat-related deaths to around 2800 cases per year. This is likely to
be offset by fewer cold-related deaths. Flooding and landslides are predicted to
become more frequent, disrupting road and rail networks. NERC spends about £40 million
each year on climate change research. NERC scientists are world-leading authorities
on this issue, and advise the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was
awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for their work, and is recognised worldwide
as the definitive source for climate change information.
Human activities, most notably worldwide fossil fuel demand and rapid population
and economic growth in the developing world, are accelerating environmental change
and increasing pressure on ecosystems and services, challenging our social and economic
wellbeing. HM Treasury has identified this issue as a key challenge that the UK
must address in the next decade, a concern supported by the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change Fourth Assessment, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and the
Back to top
Lighting: New LED technology will cut
carbon emissions by 23 million tonnes and slash household lighting bills by 25 per
A new way of making LEDs could see household lighting bills reduced by up to 75
per cent within five years. Gallium Nitride (GaN), a man-made semiconductor used
to make LEDs (light emitting diodes), emits brilliant light but uses very little
electricity. Until now high production costs have made GaN lighting too expensive
for widespread use in homes and offices. However, with funding from the Engineering
and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Cambridge University based Centre
for Gallium Nitride has developed a new way of making GaN which could produce LEDs
for a tenth of current prices.
Based on current results, GaN LED lights in every home and office could cut the
proportion of UK electricity used for lights from 20 per cent to 5 per cent. That
means we could close or not need to replace eight power stations.
Back to top
Security screening: STFC engineers have helped
to design and build a security scanner that can detect liquids and is now being
trialled at Manchester Airport.
Rapiscan Systems Ltd. is one of the world’s leading providers of security monitoring
equipment for airports and other ports of entry. By providing initial consultancy
and subsequent design activities, the Engineering Technology Centre (ETC) at STFC’s
Daresbury Laboratory has helped Rapiscan (through its subsidiary company, CXR) to
realise world leading scanning technology which is already being trialled at UK
airports and will form the next breakthrough in providing a safe and secure country.
Rapiscan Systems UK has significantly increased its revenue over recent years and
has received the Queens Award for International Trade. Its UK operations are seen
as key to this growth and the commercialisation of the RTT 'family' of system is
likely to attract further investment and create opportunities for UK businesses.
Back to top
Innovative environmentally friendly products:
From an initial investment of £160k into sustainable art and design, the successful
commercialisation of award winning innovative products using recycled glass now
has an estimated commercial value of £3-4 million.
‘Open loop solutions for waste glass’ was a research project funded by the Arts
and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and carried out within the Art and Design
Research Centre of the Cultural Communication and Computing Research Centre at Sheffield
Hallam University. The project, led by Professor Jim Roddis, explored the opportunities
for waste glass to be used in constructive, energy-efficient ways and the technical
factors involved in converting glass cullet to useful, high value, structural material.
The project resulted in a new product called TTURA, a new material formed from recycled
bottle bank glass (85 per cent of the product) and specially formulated solvent
free resins. Once it has been cast, TTURA is diamond finished to a beautiful and
hard-wearing polished surface. TTURA won the prestigious Material ConneXion Award
in 2004. Its most recent large scale application has been designed by Martha Swartz,
and is part of the Dublin Docks reconstruction.
The response from other creative and environmentally sympathetic architects and
designers led to the formation of Eight Inch, a design and manufacturing company
specialising in the application of TTURA. Eight Inch uses this beautiful, hard wearing
and sustainable material in their projects creating bespoke worktops, flooring and
bars and was the winner of the International Design Resource Awards in 2001 and
The current gross value added of this research is £190,000 and IP royalties of £15,000
with a projected gross value added of £2-3 million and potential IP royalties of
c.£0.5-1 million over 25 years from new companies selling TTURA. In addition this
product has the potential to reduce landfill.
Back to top
Policy responses to climate change,
such as rising energy prices in line with energy efficiency improvements, have been
informed by RCUK research highlighting a ‘rebound effect’. Consumer savings due
to fuel efficiency may be spent on things which contribute to climate change, such
as buying a fuel efficient car but driving further.
A 2007 report by the RCUK funded UK Energy Research Centre highlights that ‘Rebound
Effects’ can result in energy savings falling short of expectations, thereby threatening
the success of UK climate policy. An example of a rebound effect would be the driver
who replaces a car with a fuel-efficient model, only to take advantage of its cheaper
running costs to drive further and more often. Or a family that insulates their
loft and puts the money saved on their heating bill towards an overseas holiday.
To avoid energy efficiency gains from undermining the benefits to climate policy,
the report argues that policy-makers must build 'headroom' into policy targets to
allow for rebound effects, raising energy prices in line with energy efficiency
improvements or imposing absolute caps on emissions.
Back to top
Flooding: RCUK research informs the operation
of the Thames barrier which protects London from flooding, protection valued at
Flooding caused by tidal surges is a serious threat to the people and businesses
in London. The erection of the Thames barrier is a great engineering feat to counter
this threat, however, this technology would be ineffective without NERC tidal data
from scientists at the Proudman Oceanography Laboratory (POL) and prediction capabilities
that inform decisions on when to raise or lower the gates.
POL is sited in a £5 million, purpose-built site on the University of Liverpool
campus. Scientists at POL research and monitor storm surges responsible for flooding,
global sea level rises, oil spill movements and how pollutants disperse. The laboratory
gathers the data that regulates the operation of the Thames Barrier that protects
London from flooding. The cost of getting this wrong and London flooding could be
as much as £30 billion, without counting the loss of human lives.
Back to top
Further information on RCUK collaborative funding can be found