£5m fund to enable solar-energy harvester development

Fifteen British businesses and seven universities are to share £5m of government funding to enable them to research the use of nanoscale technologies to develop the next generation of solar-energy harvesters.

Under the RCUK programme, Nanoscience through Engineering to Application, the EPSRC and the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) are investing in four industry-led collaborative research and development projects that will address challenges in building the supply chain and scaling up technologies.

The aim of the investment is to help ensure that the UK can become an early and competitive adopter of the novel technologies, placing British companies in a position to take a share of the global market.

This investment is part of a two-stage initiative under the Nanoscience through Engineering to Application Grand Challenge for Energy.

The university partners on three of the funded projects had initially received three years of funding from the EPSRC and these projects will follow on to scale up the technologies developed in the first stage.

The EPSRC is to provide grants totalling £3.3m to the academic institutions taking part in the research, while the TSB’s grants to the industrial participants will total £1.7m.

The total value of the four projects, taking into account contributions from the industrial partners, will be £7.3m. The companies leading the projects will be Pilkington Technology Management, Tata Steel, Kurt J Lesker and Intrinsiq Materials.

‘This is the first example of nanoscience research funding from the research councils being directly pulled through to application funding with the TSB via a stage-gated funding route,’ said David Delpy, chief executive of the EPSRC. ‘This approach actively supports economic growth while helping to solve one of society’s greatest challenges.’

While the current installed electricity-generating capacity is approximately 80GW, projected demand is likely to be up to 50 per cent higher by 2050. Government targets, however, demand an 80 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions by that time.

The TSB believes that the Sun could provide enough energy to make up the shortfall, providing sufficient investment is made in quickly developing and exploiting energy-capture and storage technologies.