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Energy Futures Lab launched at Imperial College London

Under embargo for 00.01 GMT
Wednesday 2 November 2005

A new Lab dedicated to tackling the scientific challenges posed by the worlds demand for energy is launched today at Imperial College London.

The Energy Futures Lab is a focal point for energy research across the College and it aims to play a leading role in setting the energy agenda over the next 20 to 50 years. Its goal is to develop new multidisciplinary, cross-faculty research programmes which will meet the broad energy challenges that we face, and facilitate the transition to a sustainable energy future.

Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks spoke at the launch

The Lab will focus its research at the intersection of diverse technologies in order to find ways of meeting fundamental energy needs such as heating, lighting, power and transportation, without contributing to climate change.

The Lab will enable Imperial to bring together its existing strengths in developing technologies such as carbon capture, fossil fuel engineering, renewable energy resources and fuel cells, coupled with a proven track record in innovation and entrepreneurship.

At today's launch, Imperial announced the first Energy Futures Lab research programme, including a £4.5 million Urban Energy Systems project with BP and investment in three new world-class Professors and their research groups. A £6.1 million Keeping the Nuclear Option Open initiative was also announced.

The BP Urban Energy Systems project will explore how money and energy could be saved if cities integrated the systems that supply them with resources.

The Keeping the Nuclear Option Open initiative will research how the UK could create a new reactor-based capacity to generate nuclear power, and how to improve the cost, safety and acceptability of doing so.

These two new projects add to the Colleges energy related research portfolio of over £20m per annum in external funding and more than 200 research projects, involving around 250 staff and their research teams.

Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks, a speaker at the launch today, said: "The major energy issues we face extend far beyond just technical challenges, and social scientists, engineers, business, economists and, dare I say, even politicians, have a key role to play in addressing these. In the UK we must get to grips with these complex issues and have to make some hard choices. We must address an array of challenges around technology, energy supply and demand, economics, policy and security.

"I am happy that Imperial College London is dedicating its considerable technological expertise and its know-how in areas like carbon capture, fuel cells and renewable energy to addressing these problems, by establishing the Energy Futures Lab," he added.

Imperial's Rector, Sir Richard Sykes, said: "Energy is one of Imperials three key research themes. The Energy Futures Lab is a college-wide strategic initiative that will address the hugely complex cross-cutting problems individual projects cannot tackle alone. Imperial College is focusing the efforts of some of the best people available on addressing energy issues at the broad level. We are not attempting to 'back winners' in the energy debate - we are keeping an open mind on all the options.

"Imperial is one of the few places in the world with the breadth and depth of knowledge to tackle the bigger picture and create practical, workable solutions to our energy problems. We hope the Labs new research initiatives will help facilitate the transition to a sustainable energy future," he added.

Imperial has recruited internationally recognised research leaders to emphasise its commitment to addressing energy issues. New Professors Geoffrey Maitland Opens in new window, Professor of Energy Engineering; Goran Strbac, Professor of Power Engineering; and William Lee, Professor of Materials, each discussed their work on hydrocarbons, future energy networks and the immobilisation of nuclear wastes, respectively, at the launch.

In addition, the College has recently promoted to Professorships four academics specialising in energy-related areas such as renewable energy and solar cells.

Imperial also announced plans to create a new MSc course in Sustainable Energy Futures, aimed at developing highly skilled postgraduate students in energy analysis and technologies by bringing together energy technology, economics, environmental issues and policy. Imperial is exploring with MIT the possible development of appropriate joint schemes, including sharing energy education programmes.

The Energy Futures Lab will work with the best in industry and other academic institutions internationally, building on the existing strategic research collaborations with organisations such as Shell, BP, ABB and Schlumberger. Imperial is also collaborating closely with partners such as UKERC, the Research Councils and the Carbon Trust.


For further information please contact:

Laura Gallagher
Press Officer
Communications Division
Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 6702
Mobile: +44 (0)7803 886 248

Notes to editors:

1. Separate news releases are available giving further information about the Urban Energy Systems project and the Keeping the Nuclear Option initiative.

2. Consistently rated in the top three UK university institutions, Imperial College London is a world leading science-based university whose reputation for excellence in teaching and research attracts students (11,000) and staff (6,000) of the highest international quality. Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and management and delivers practical solutions that enhance the quality of life and the environment - underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.