A Flexible Fund of around £3m (at 80% FEC) has been set up as part of UKERC’s fourth phase of operation, which will run up to April 2024. The overarching purpose of the Fund is to ensure that UKERC is fully able to address the needs of the UK energy community as they evolve. More specific aims include broadening the range of researchers and disciplines that participate in our research programme, building collaboration with other research communities, scoping new research agendas, and maintaining flexibility in order to be able to respond to new developments in the energy arena. Promoting integration in the core UKERC research programme is also a key aim of the Fund.

The Fund is overseen by UKERC’s independent Research Committee, which includes academics from across the UK research community and is chaired by Dr. Joanne Wade OBE, Deputy Director at The Association for Decentralised Energy. The Committee is responsible for identifying research priorities for the Fund, overseeing the peer review process, selecting which projects will be funded and advising on the implementation of UKERC’s overall research strategy.

Consultation activities

The majority of the Fund will be allocated via two targeted Calls for Proposals in 2020 and 2021, with the first Call to be announced in May 2020. In order to scope and develop the research agenda for the Call two key consultation activities were carried out, an in-person workshop and an online survey.

The workshop took place in central London on the 12th February. It was attended by approximately 30 representatives from the UK research community and industry. The purpose of the workshop was for attendees to develop individual research ideas, cluster them in broader research areas, and vote on the most popular topics.

The online survey was open from December 2019 to February 2020 for all who wanted to participate in the consultation process but were not able to attend the workshop. It gave respondents the opportunity to propose up to three research topics. In total 32 responses where received and 70 topics were proposed.

This report sets out the outcomes and highlights from both of the consultation activities. Highlights from the workshop include the role of the financial sector in reaching net-zero, clean cooling, decision making at different levels, and who will pay for net-zero. Highlights from the survey include future pathways for net-zero, the role of the power and building sectors, and new tools and methods in energy research and the energy sector.

Next steps

The first Call for Proposals will be announced in May 2020. There will be a two-stage selection process. Expressions of Interest and full proposals will be evaluated by the UKERC Research Committee. The supported research is expected to complement core research projects and form an integral part of UKERC’s programme.