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South Bank Innovation’s (SBI) Commercial Enterprise and Research teams work tirelessly to ensure our academics at London South Bank University (LSBU) have access to the funding and business partnerships they need to build change.

With the increasing pressure of establishing the UK’s net zero economy by 2050, we thought we’d look forward at three new net zero projects starting this year and check in with them periodically to see how they’re progressing throughout 2023.

These projects, with LSBU and partners, are kicking off after winning Innovate UK bids designed to build collaborations with a knowledge base and industry in 2022.  

To learn more about why the bidding process may be important to your business check out our Knowledge Exchange Framework explainer.

How Did They Get Funding?

The projects highlighted here are funded by two grants:

AKT2I Funding Awards

LSBU and partners successfully won two awards from Innovate UK’s brand-new grant, the AKT2I Accelerated Knowledge Transfer to Innovate (AKT2I). Like the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) the initiative contributes to knowledge exchange activity between a UK knowledge base and industry.

The pilot AKT2I scheme was announced to support UK registered businesses or charities and universities to deliver short, rapid, and targeted intervention projects. The call was extremely successful, the total £3m made available for an expected three rounds was instead awarded in the first, supporting a total of 80 projects.

SBI’s two grants were awarded on the basis they accelerated the evaluation or development of an innovation with the potential for significant impact for the business partner. Both tackle the changing ways in which we engage with our environment, working to ensure we are fit for the future.

Innovate UK Smart Grant Award

The Innovate UK Smart Grant is an ‘open funding’ programme. Part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the programme supports UK businesses and organisations with game-changing and commercially viable innovative or disruptive ideas.

Up to £25million is invested in proposals from businesses and their partners that are destined for early, successful commercialisation and growth, with realised economic return to the UK.

SBI and a set of consortium partners successfully won a £1m grant with the HyPRO 2 project which seeks to re-define hydrogen storage for transport applications.

What Are the Projects?

AKT2I project: FerrousWheel

The FerrousWheel project aims to radically accelerate the re-use of structural steel in construction, particularly steel products reclaimed after demolition.

Together with industrial partners, Symmetrys consulting engineers, LSBU are developing an innovative automated digital tool that can suggest suitable replacements for steel beams and columns from centralised, cloud-based stocklists. Structural engineers can then incorporate these procurements into their designs. The tool can also calculate total carbon savings as well as producing easy-to-interpret graphical summaries of the reused steel replacements for the benefit of clients.

FerrousWheel will be an open-source product, allowing access to this specialist analysis software across the engineering community and widening the efforts to achieve net zero in construction.

Heading up the project from LSBU’s Civil and Building Services Engineering team, in the School of the Built Environment and Architecture, are:

Finian McCann - A specialist in the analytical, numerical and experimental investigations of structural engineering systems and materials.

Ottavia Rispoli – Ottavia’s current research is exploring sustainable materials, curved crease long span structure optimization and modular construction.

and Bushra Al Rashid – an AKT Associate, Bushra is a postgraduate researcher at LSBU.

Alongside three experienced structural engineers from Symmetrys, each with specialisms relating to sustainable construction, the project team will aim to deliver the novel automated digital framework that enables structural designers to readily redeploy used steelwork in new structural designs.

AKT2I project: Tsunami Laboratory Testing

Tsunami is a significant natural hazard. To mitigate its effect on the built environment and societies, scientists, engineers, and government bodies rely on knowledge from experimental data to plan, insure against, and build tsunami resilient infrastructure.

Laboratory models of tsunami, which are the only way scientists and engineers can study their effects on infrastructure, are currently unable to reproduce multiple wave inundations and return flows. The innovation developed by this team proposes a large-scale laboratory tsunami modelling system to realise the world’s first tsunami wave train and return flow laboratory generation system.

David McGovern will be the lead from LSBU. He is a physical modeler in the fields of coastal and ocean engineering, sediment transport and fluid mechanics. He has a particular focus on tsunami and coastal natural hazards with extensive research and industry experience in the natural environment. The AKT Associate is Keith Adams.

The work is part of a wider project, MAKEWAVES, a large international collaboration of scientists, engineers, and industry partners working to improve tsunami resilience.

Smart grant Project: HyPRO 2

It is known that in the UK a fifth of national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are produced by road transport, of which over 17% are from heavy goods vehicle (HGV) propulsion engines. They are now predominantly powered by diesel fuel which has caused serious environmental impacts such as excessive carbon emissions, air pollution, and an energy resource crisis.

It is thus urgently desired to electrify HGVs with either battery electric vehicles (BEVs) or hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs).

When it comes to HGVs there are some important advantages FCEVs have over BEVs. They include:

  • Shorter refuelling times
  • Longer driving ranges
  • Being lighter in weight

To understand how FCEVs work you may want to check out this:

However, the energy saving strategies and implementations on the well-to-tank processes for the FCEVs need to be further investigated and developed.

HyPRO 2 is a safe and efficient, low-cost, high-pressure metal hydride, hydrogen storage solution.

That’s a bit of a tongue twister but essentially the project will carry out research into the maximum energy conversion efficiency for hydrogen storage and high-pressure production.

Instead of using massive pressure tanks and energy-intensive electric compressors, innovative thermal-driven compact metal hydride reactors will be investigated and designed to store, purify, and pressurise hydrogen.

The project commenced at the tail end of 2022 and is expected to last two years.

The project will carry out research into the maximum conversion efficiency of a high-pressure thermal-driven chemical hydrogen compressor with metal hydride alloys. The chemical compressor is integrated with decarbonised electricity and low-cost electrolysers which operates with innovative and advanced hydrogen storage and compression cycles to produce and transfer hydrogen efficiently at a hydrogen refuelling station (HRS).

It is expected up-to 20% energy content of hydrogen product can be saved with this technology.  

LSBU’s principal investigator is Yunting Ge, Professor of Building Services Engineering in the School of The Built Environment and Architecture. He is also the Director of the Centre for Civil and Building Services Engineering (CCiBSE). Yunting has over 20 years research and development experience in built environment, energy conversation technology and hydrogen and thermofluids.

Co-investigator, Dr Abouzar Estebsari, is an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at LSBU and a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

Together, with partners, the project team consists of leading UK researchers within hydrogen energy, heat pump and refrigeration systems, energy conversion system analyses and heat exchangers fields.  

The UK research community is underrepresented in the international effort to develop efficient hydrogen refuelling stations from industrial waste or renewable heat resources. It is hoped that the outcomes from this project can pave the way for wider engagement of the academic community and contribute towards significant reductions in CO2 emissions to the environment.

What’s Next?

Could your business be part of a much bigger project?  

Maybe it’s time to start collaborating with academics to develop your product or service and play your role in something more.

Check out our opportunities to collaborate here.

Melissa O'Connor
Commercial Engagement Manager
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