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Fri September 17 2021

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Funding boost for Active Building Centre

20 Sep 18 Swansea University and its partners have been given a £36m government grant to develop construction materials that generate electricity.

Jenny Baker from Swansea University's College of Engineering with chancellor Philip Hammond and Welsh secretary Alun Cairns
Jenny Baker from Swansea University's College of Engineering with chancellor Philip Hammond and Welsh secretary Alun Cairns

The funding is for the Active Building Centre, which will seek to remove barriers and accelerate market adoption of new solar-powered building design.

Swansea University is leading a consortium that is working on new building materials and coatings that generate electricity from light and heat. The vision is that the energy can be used to power homes, hospitals and schools, or be sold back to the national grid.

The goal is for these materials to replace conventional walls, roofs and windows, generating electricity that is stored and released by a smart operating system.

The government is keen on the research programme because it has a target of halving the energy use of new buildings by 2030.

The Active Building Centre will be a national centre of excellence working with supply chains from energy and construction supported by 10 universities: Swansea, Bath, Newcastle, Birmingham, Loughborough, UCL, Sheffield, Cardiff, Imperial College London and Nottingham.

The Active Building Centre’s building programme will include its own flagship building, the ‘living lab’, which will be located next to Swansea University’s Bay Campus. A portfolio of 300 further buildings will be developed UK-wide in close collaboration with developers and supply chains, to address different market sector needs.

The funding was made through the ‘Transforming Construction’ challenge of the government’s Industrial Strategy.

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UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) is delivering the funding for the new centre. UKRI chief executive Sir Mark Walport said: “As we move towards a low-carbon economy, we need to explore more efficient ways of generating, conserving and using power and energy. Active buildings, which integrate solar generation and storage technologies for electricity and heat within their construction, can help to achieve this. The Active Building Centre will work to remove barriers to the large-scale adoption of active buildings on new developments throughout the country.”

The award was announced by chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond on a visit to the university. He said: “Swansea University and the innovative companies working with it are world-leaders in clean energy. The UK government is backing the industries of the future that will deliver jobs and opportunities across Wales. This £36m new funding will support exciting green technology that could cut energy bills, reduce carbon emissions and create better homes and workspaces.

Secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, Greg Clark, said: “This centre has the potential to transform how buildings use energy, turning them from energy consumers into power stations. This £36m investment in clean energy innovation shows the UK continues to lead the way in cutting emissions while growing our economy.

“We are putting our world-leading science and innovation sector at the heart of our modern Industrial Strategy, and have set the ambitious target for investment in research and development to reach 2.4% of GDP by 2027.”

The Sustainable Product Engineering Centre for Innovative Functional Industrial Coatings (SPECIFIC), led by Swansea University with Tata Steel as the main industrial partner, launched its pilot manufacturing facility in 2012.

Pictured above is the UK's first energy positive office, which was designed and conceived by SPECIFIC, funded by Innovate UK (with support from Swansea University and ERDF), built off-site by Wernick and sponsored by Tata Steel and Cisco.

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