Consultancy benefits clients and academics

Business uptake of services including technical advice, testing, analysis and expert witness via Imperial Consultants has continued in the past year, delivering projects for over 400 clients from 29 countries.

In addition to benefits for clients (see case study below), the process of working as a consultant also improves the research practice of academics. Consultancy projects enable academics to develop a deeper understanding of societal needs,and tailor research to maximise impact and raise their profile: “My consultancy work is leading to more collaboration, more publications and further grant opportunities” confirms Professor Alison Holmes, Department of Medicine.

Storing energy in disused mineshafts

Charlie Blair

Alumni-led company Gravitricity commissioned PhD researcher Mr Oliver Schmidt (Centre for Environmental Policy) via Imperial Consultants to provide an independent cost assessment of the technology behind its gravity-fed energy storage system.

The technology stores excess electrical power as potential energy by suspending a weight of up to 2,000 tonnes in disused mineshafts. It uses excess electricity to winch the weight to the top of the shaft for release when energy is required.

“This technology is a first-of-a-kind project,” explains Gravitricity Managing Director Charlie Blair (MSc Environmental Technology 2004), “We wanted to really test the work we had done, so we came back to Imperial.”

“I made sure our study was rigorous and compared all technologies on a level playing field,” Mr Schmidt says. “Gravitricity… comes out looking like a compelling proposition.” The report concluded that the technology could offer cheaper energy storage than batteries and would be particularly well-suited to grid operators.