Our sustainability projects

The Energy and Bioproducts Research Institute

The Energy and Bioproducts Research Institute at Aston University carries out world-leading research into new and innovative ways of converting biomass into sources of sustainable energy, using thermochemical, biological and catalytic processes.

Achieving an affordable, resilient and low carbon energy future is essential, and EBRI aims to use sustainable resources to make this a reality. The processes we develop will contribute to make a net-zero carbon economy possible, while allowing traditional manufacturing sources of fuels, chemicals and materials to be replaced with cleaner and safer alternatives.

EBRI


The Supergen Bioenergy Hub

The Supergen Bioenergy Hub works with academia, industry, government and societal stakeholders to develop sustainable bioenergy systems that support the UK’s transition to an affordable, resilient, low-carbon energy future. The Hub is based at Aston University under the direction of Professor Patricia Thornley.

The hub is funded jointly by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and is part of the wider Supergen Programme, which represents one of the UK Government’s largest single investments in fundamental research on low-carbon energy generation, sustainable networks and use.

Supergen


The Energy Research Accelerator (ERA)

The Energy Research Accelerator (ERA) draws on the expertise and world-class facilities of the Midlands Innovation group of universities – Aston, Birmingham, Cranfield, Keele, Leicester, Loughborough, Nottingham and Warwick, plus the British Geological Survey.

The purpose of ERA is to work with UK government, industry and the higher education sector to undertake innovative research, develop the next generation of energy leaders, and demonstrate low carbon technologies that help shape the future of the UK’s energy landscape.

Energy research accelerator


The Low Carbon SME project

The free service brings together Aston University academics, industrial expertise, and a solid understanding of the low-carbon drivers that impact SME businesses in the Black Country, Greater Birmingham and Solihull.

The six-year project was set up in 2017 to help 165 businesses reduce their carbon footprint substantially – up to 7 tonnes per company and make the transition to a net zero industrial future.

The programme provides independent analysis of a business’s existing practices via an in-depth energy efficiency audit and data analysis deriving the carbon footprint. The resulting bespoke Carbon Action Plan identifies practical and cost-effective measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2021, the Low Carbon SME project became a finalist in the Green Gown Awards.

Low carbon


Changing the value of plastic bottles

Dr Timothy Whitehead, Lecturer in Product Design for Low-Income Countries at Aston University, has identified that one of the main reasons plastic is put into landfill, or dumped into the ocean, is that it is not seen as a valuable resource worth saving and reusing, especially in the developed world.

Researchers at Aston University are investigating the ways PET (plastic bottles) can be used for 3D printer filament. This will increase the value of recycled PET and enable people to decentralise the manufacture of products and allow anyone to create products that meet their specific needs.

Plastic bottles


A public-private partnership between UK manufacturer Baxi-BDR Thermea and the Advanced Services Group

A public-private partnership between UK manufacturer Baxi-BDR Thermea and the Advanced Services Group (ASG) at Aston University, could signal an innovative way for the UK to meet its decarbonisation goals.

The project aims to explore the viability of Baxi offering a new heat-as-a-service model to customers through servitisation. This is a heat plan that bundles a new heating system, servicing, maintenance, and energy for a fixed monthly price. Baxi’s “fit and forget” solution changes the focus from selling energy in kilowatt-hours to selling warmth, and the outcome-based offer helps the manufacturer drive the adoption of low carbon technologies.

Public private partnership


Industrial biotechnology

The Aston Centre for Membrane Proteins and Lipids Research (AMPL) is a collaborative team of principal investigators in biochemistry, molecular modelling, pharmacology, protein/lipid chemistry, cell biology and polymer science.

The global economy has an unsustainable dependence on fossil raw material. Concerns about environmental sustainability are becoming more acute; thus, alternatives to traditional, fossil-fuel based chemical production are urgently required.

Cell factories, which use microorganisms to produce materials from renewable biomass, are an attractive alternative, and an increasing number of platform chemicals are being produced at industrial scale using engineered microorganisms.

Power plant


Progressing to a net zero business through the circular economy

The manufacturing industry in the UK is facing growing productivity challenges due to supply and price volatility of raw materials. Manufacturing firms are consequently embracing the opportunities of circular economy approaches as a means to save costs, prevent disruptions in materials input and generate additional revenue from waste streams.

Net zero business