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University of Ulster researchers are involved in a €1.25 million collaborative research project which aims to cut their industry partners' manufacturing energy costs significantly.

The Total Energy Management for Production Operations (TEMPO)project aims to establish an effective way of monitoring total energy consumption during the manufacturing process to reduce overall energy costs.

The funding has been awarded as part of Enterprise Ireland’s Technology Centres Programme and will be delivered in collaboration with the I2E2 group of companies and the International Energy Research Centre (IERC).

The principal investigators on the project are ProfessorMartin McGinnity, Director of the Intelligent Systems Research Centre (ISRC) at Ulster's Magee campus, Professor Neil Hewitt, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Technologies (CST) at Ulster’s Jordanstown campus andJohn Cosgrove, Director of theACORN Research Group at Limerick Institute of Technology.

The ISRC is a major research unit within the Faculty of Computing and Engineering dedicated to the creation of intelligent computational systems while the CST’s primary research interests lie in energy efficiency, renewable energy and energy system modelling.

Professor McGinnity (pictured above) explained how their joint expertise could lead to major savings for their industrial partners who include leading multinational companies like DePuy and Intel.

He said: “Energy consumed in the manufacturing process can represent up to 50% of the total plant energy but it is generally not tracked to the same level of detail as other energy costs, such as heating and lighting, are monitored.

“Current energy monitoring tools do not allow all energy usage to be integrated so even when energy used during the production process is tracked, factory managers need to refer to different systems to allow them to manage energy and factory performance efficiently and effectively.

“Information is missing on the variation of energy with production volumes and on the allocation of energy costs to specific value streams, product lines, machines or products.Integrating all energy information and production information into one intelligent decision support system will allow for energy and production optimisation, cost reduction and standardised comparison of energy consumption across product lines, tools, machines and facilities.

“The goal is to develop a set of generic, company independent, effective ICT tools to improve energy monitoring during the production process and cut costs significantly.”

Peter Devine, Head of Business Development at ISRC says TEMPO brings together an excellent partnership of research performers and leading HiTech manufacturing companies to address a problem identified by industry.

“This highlights both the relevance and application of commercially focussed research that is being carried out at the University of Ulster.”

He added that the validated ICT toolset to monitor energy consumption during production should have significant licensing potential through the IERC partner companies.

Fergus Begley, Green & Sustainable Enterprise Manager at Ulster’s Office of Innovation added:

“A market opportunity exists at present to exploit the latest communication and analytical principles to drive the core components within manufacturing, delivering understanding, accountability, transparency and accuracy in sustainability. This project will help to drive efficiency with the knock-on effect of this communication being a measurable and significant reduction in fuel, electricity and resource use.”

Notes for editors

The IERC is an industry driven research and innovation centre that has a key focus on Integrated Energy Systems. The research agenda at the centre is defined by companies with common interests while always collaborating with the best research capabilities in Ireland and Internationally. It is a collaboration between industry, Departments and Agencies and leading Irish and international research groups with proven expertise in technological areas which are becoming increasingly relevant to the energy challenge.

The IERC is hosted by the Tyndall National Institute in Cork and supported by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources working with a coordinated agency project team of IDA, Enterprise Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.Companies involved have a strong interest in energy solutions and include United Technologies Research Center, Alcatel - Lucent Bell Labs, HSG Zander and IBM together with Irish Utility Companies Bord Gais Energy and Bord Gais Networks.

The I2E2 Energy Research Centre is a RoI government-sponsored Technology Centre, established to facilitate research which will have a direct impact on industry. The I2E2 research focus is on energy efficiency improvements in factories, plant, equipment and buildings. Their current research agenda focuses on compressed air systems characterisation, use and solution integration; appropriate work environments and HVAC systems. The innovations will enable the Irish manufacturing industry to improve competitiveness via breakthroughs in energy efficiency and cost reduction.