Flexible Fund announcement

21 Jan 2021

The Flexible Research Fund is a £3M research fund to support collaborative, high quality, whole systems research. It provides funding to researchers at universities or other institutions eligible to hold UKRI awards.

We are delighted to announce the details of the projects awarded through our first call, which focused on the areas of governance, finance, and cooling.

A message from UKERC Director Rob Gross:

“After a competitive round with over 50 applications, we are thrilled to build our portfolio of research with these exciting projects.

Focusing on key areas that are integral to the UK’s net zero ambitions, following an independent review, these projects were awarded funding as they represent leading research in their respective areas, and will progress our knowledge and understanding of these key topics.”

Awarded projects

Finance and procurement for net zero

PI: Colin Nolden, University of Bristol

In 2019, the UK became the first country to a net-zero emissions target by 2050. This requires significant economic and societal shifts and transformations to new ways of living and working. Led by a team of early career researchers (with mentoring from senior academics), this project will explore the role of public procurement and place-based finance in shaping energy-related net-zero delivery collaborations at a local scale.

Sustainable Food Cold-Chains

PI: Judith Evans, London South Bank University

Progressing from farm to fork, over 70% of our food goes through the cold-chain, with food refrigeration estimated to be responsible for 2-4% of the UK’s total GHG emissions. This project will provide comprehensive evidence-driven roadmaps for the UK food cold chain to help them achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050 while still providing necessary levels of nutrition, and protecting livelihoods.

Going Dutch

PI: Matthew Lockwood, University of Sussex

In the UK, residential heat is dominated by the use of natural gas, with the Netherlands being the only other country in Europe with a similar reliance on gas.  Following earthquakes in the Gröningen region linked to gas extraction in January 2018, the Dutch government moved decisively to ‘get rid of gas’ by 2030. This has provided major momentum to heat decarbonisation policy, which is moving ahead far quicker than in the UK.  This project will seek to learn from Dutch successes and challenges, including decisions about networks, technologies, vectors, and governance frameworks.

Net Zero neighbourhoods

PI: Stephen Hall, University of Leeds

This project will work with local authorities and communities to find new ways of renovating and retrofitting homes for a low carbon future. In the past, these activities have relied mainly on government grants, which are often too small on their own to reach our climate change commitments as a nation. This project will explore solutions that work within our existing social networks, making the best of local resources and building stocks, to contribute to a green economic recovery.

The next call for applications anticipated to take place later this year.