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How universities are rising to the net-zero challenge

Translational Energy Research Centre (TERC)

Professor Koen Lamberts, Vice-Chancellor

Professor Koen Lamberts, Vice-Chancellor | The University of Sheffield

3 min read Partner content

University of Sheffield Vice-Chancellor, Professor Koen Lamberts, writes on the importance of academia, industry and government working together to build a more sustainable future.

Universities are uniquely placed to respond to net-zero challenges. We are collaborators and conveners, bringing together government, industry and academia to pioneer the solutions we need for the future of our planet.

At the University of Sheffield, academics and students lead transformational research into sustainable food systems, clean energy solutions, green technologies, policy, behaviour change and much more. Our research makes a real difference across the globe – whether it is developing beans that use less water for hotter and drier climates, growing food without soil on recycled foam mattresses, or finding ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel power plants and heavy industry.

The research that takes place in our laboratories and facilities does not stay there. We work with partners to ensure our innovations can be applied in the real world, and with industry, to translate our research into market-ready technologies that make products and processes more sustainable. For example, our Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), part of the High-Value Manufacturing Catapult, has helped global companies like Boeing and Rolls-Royce cut production times for critical components. Our engineers have worked with energy companies to make offshore wind turbines more reliable and efficient, and our Translational Energy Research Centre (TERC) is working with industry to explore using green hydrogen as an alternative fuel for steelmaking.

“Universities provide expertise across a range of net-zero topics”

Universities provide expertise across a range of net-zero topics. At our Energy Institute, we have one of the largest energy research teams in Europe focused on finding low carbon solutions to energy challenges, and our Institute for Sustainable Food is working to tackle food insecurity and other sustainability issues. Our South Yorkshire Sustainability Centre connects researchers with regional partners to develop and implement plans to reduce emissions.

We also offer access to world-leading facilities, like TERC, our AMRC, Nuclear AMRC and Sustainable Aviation Fuels Innovation Centre (SAF-IC). Researchers at SAF-IC are part of the consortium, led by Virgin Atlantic with government funding, that will deliver the world’s first transatlantic flight using 100% sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) later this year. We will undertake the pre-screening of SAF in our characterisation lab at the University of Sheffield Innovation District.

The path to net-zero is not only good for our planet, but can bring benefits to our communities. Our research and innovation is helping to boost productivity and create green growth in our region. Boeing and McLaren Automotive built facilities in South Yorkshire to be close to our expertise and capabilities, and the Ultimate Battery Company – which worked with our AMRC to develop its technology product – is looking to scale production, employing around 500 people.

When academia, industry and government work together, we can be greater than the sum of our parts. We each have a critical role to play on the path to net-zero and can achieve more when we work together.

To learn more about how the University of Sheffield is working with partners to address net-zero challenges, or arrange a visit to our facilities, email publicaffairs@sheffield.ac.uk

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