Imperial partnered with Sainsbury's on sustainability research


Signage outside a Sainsbury's store

Imperial is carrying out a range of research in partnership with Sainsbury's to help the supermarket chain meet its Net Zero emissions target.

Imperial and Sainsbury’s have announced the renewal of a partnership aimed at helping the company meet its commitment to become Net Zero in its own operations by 2040. The renewal of the long-term partnership, which began in 2010, means it will extend until at least 2025, with a flexible remit to cover a range of sustainability-related research.

Under the partnership, energy and engineering experts from the College are working closely with the supermarket chain on a range of multi-disciplinary research that will help it reduce its carbon emissions by minimising its use of resources such as natural gas, diesel, electricity and water in its buildings and transport operations.

Work on the built environment includes a project to help Sainsbury’s use heat recovery strategies to end its use of natural gas in shops. Future research will also focus increasingly on robust decarbonisation strategies to support cost-effective transitions towards Net Zero.

Imperial experts are working closely with Sainsbury's on research that will help it reduce its carbon emissions by minimising use of gas, diesel, electricity and water.

Meanwhile, under the theme of logistics, Imperial will help Sainsbury’s reduce emissions in its heavy goods vehicles by providing expert impartial advice on alternative fuels like hydrogen and biomethane.

The research is carried out by academics, researchers and postgraduate students in the Centre for Process Systems Engineering, Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment, and other academic teams within the College.

Working collaboratively

Professor Nilay Shah, Head of the Department of Chemical Engineering, said: “We’re really pleased to have the opportunity to help Sainsbury’s meet its ambitious sustainability goals. The partnership offers us a fantastic opportunity to understand how our research can be applied in real-world settings and to shape our work so that it helps Sainsbury’s transform its business and makes a tangible contribution to the energy transition the world urgently requires. We are delighted to be continuing the partnership for five more years.”

David Merefield, Carbon, Utilities & Engineering Manager at Sainsbury’s, said: “We’re proud to continue our work with Imperial as part of our ongoing ambition to achieve Net Zero in our own operations by 2040. Throughout our longstanding partnership, we’ve demonstrated the importance of working collaboratively with academics, to inspire new thinking and enable us to trial and test the benefits of new innovation. We look forward to exploring alternative solutions over the coming years as we work together to build a more sustainable future.”

Partnership benefits

By partnering with Imperial, Sainsbury’s benefits by having academic experts work on tailor-made projects custom-designed to meet its current business needs. This work yields insights Sainsbury’s can use to guide decision-making and in some cases solutions it can immediately implement or use to inform their strategy.

Imperial researchers and postgraduate students benefit from the opportunity to identify the value of their research to industry and test it in real-world settings, including pilots in Sainsbury’s stores. It allows them to make a greater real-world impact with their research and further Imperial’s academic mission to create a smarter and more sustainable society.

It has also given research students valuable experience that has helped them go on to successful roles in business sectors such as management consultancy and advisory roles in leading engineering firms.

Imperial researchers and students have the opportunity to identify the value of their research to industry and test it in real-world settings.

Dr Salvador Acha, Imperial-Sainsbury’s Project Manager and a research fellow in the Department of Chemical Engineering, said: “The partnership has been able to strike the right balance between commercial value and academic excellence while also nurturing the engineers of tomorrow.”

You can learn more on the Imperial-Sainsbury’s partnership web pages.

Enterprise ecosystem

Industry partnerships at Imperial are facilitated by the College’s Enterprise Division. Academics interested in working with industry and companies interested in partnering with the College can find out more on the Enterprise website.


David Silverman

David Silverman

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Climate-change, Pollution, Comms-strategy-Entrepreneurial-ecosystem, Research, Comms-strategy-Real-world-benefits, Enterprise
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