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Ulster University has launched an EU-funded €6.7million cross-border research project to develop a range of consumer-owned energy storage resources to meet current and future electricity market needs.

The launch of Ulster University’s SPIRE 2 project follows the UK Government’s announcement of  a complete transformation of how energy will be generated, stored and used in the future.

The SPIRE 2 project has received funding of €6.7 million from the EU’s INTERREG VA programme, which is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body. It is one of three Ulster University research projects to have secured €23 million as part of a recent SEUPB funding round.

The project involves collaboration between Ulster University, three research institutes and 14 businesses via a cross-border Virtual Research Graduate School.

Welcoming the launch Gina McIntyre, CEO of the SEUPB said:

“This is an innovative cross-border collaborative project which has the potential to make a lasting impact within the renewable energy sector, to benefit everyone in this region. The EU INTERREG VA Programme recognises the tremendous growth potential of this sector, leading to new commercial opportunities that will enhance the local economy. The funding offer includes financial support from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in Ireland and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland.”

Project leader Professor Neil Hewitt, who is the Director of the Centre for Sustainable Technologies at Ulster University, said:

“The announcement by the Business Secretary Greg Clarke outlined how the UK Government intends to stimulate a drastic modernisation of energy markets.
“The SPIRE 2 project will help to deliver this by looking at how energy storage resources owned by homeowners and businesses can resolve the problem of the variability of output from renewable energy. If consumers can store energy effectively, that will allow very high levels of renewables to be integrated into power grids globally, at the same time as putting consumers at the heart of the energy system.”
“Collaboration between research institutes and businesses is key to the success of this project and we are excited to be working with so many partner organisations. Working together, we can intensify technological innovation in the region and create pathways to commercialise advanced energy storage solutions. We want this region to be internationally recognised as an energy storage innovator as this will attract global industry interest and investment.
“The project will create 17 PhD studentships and will further develop six post-doctoral researchers. By creating this supply of highly-educated developers, able to transform research ideas into commercial reality, SPIRE 2 will also contribute to local economic growth. These positions are now open to applicants and offer an opportunity to be involved in strategically significant global energy research.”

It is expected that SPIRE 2 will generate at least eight intellectual property disclosures in areas ranging from thermochemical material storage to heat pump design and ways to prevent biofouling.

The project’s partner organisations are Queen’s University Belfast, Strathclyde University, Dundalk Institute of Technology, Arbarr Group, Sunamp Ltd, Glen Dimplex Ltd, AES Kilroot Power Ltd, Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Community Energy Scotland, B9 Energy Group, Climote, SSE plc, Energia, ESB Innovation, Ulster Farmers Union and The Authentic Food Company.

Match-funding for the project has been provided by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in Ireland and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland.

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