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 we aim to use sustainable resources to make this a reality. The processes we develop will contribute to making a net-zero carbon economy possible, while allowing traditional manufacturing sources of fuels, chemicals and materials to be replaced with cleaner and safer alternatives.

We engage with colleagues nationally and internationally on supply chains, business models, policy, regulation and system performance.

As the world strives to meet ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions and combating climate change, the Energy and Bioproduct Research Institute is:

  • Exploring the science behind new, more efficient thermochemical, biological and catalytic means of converting biomass and waste feedstocks into valuable products.
  • Providing education and training to share new knowledge and processes around bioenergy, engineering, and experience in upscaling. It also offers research-backed insights into the environmental, economic, social and policy challenges that need to be overcome in the transition to an affordable, resilient, low-carbon energy future.
  • Working collaboratively with businesses and professions to help deploy the sustainable supply chains, technical know-how and financial advice needed to make renewable biofuels that will benefit everybody.
  • Funding and developing technologies that help to meet sustainable development goals in low- and middle-income countries.
     
Meet the team

Professor Patricia Thornley
EBRI Director

I work in assessing the environmental, economic, and social impacts of renewable energy technologies, particularly bioenergy systems. I have experience of working in the commercial sector in power generation as well as in academia. I use tools such as process modelling, life cycle assessment, and techno-economic evaluation to evaluate the sustainability of new technologies and systems. I lead the national EPSRC and BBSRC funded SUPERGEN Bioenergy hub (www.supergen-bioenergy.net), which brings together academia, industry, and policy stakeholders to focus on sustainable bioenergy solutions.

My experience of research and commercial implementation, in addition to serving on policy advisory groups, leads me to firmly believe that researchers have a crucial role to play in supporting the timely deployment of waste, water and energy technologies. I also believe that these systems can be developed and adapted to meet a range of policy needs. Researchers must collaborate with policymakers and industrialists to understand the objectives and design processes that are adaptable and resilient. I love communicating what I do and its impact at all levels: I am the editor-in-chief of the Elsevier journal of Biomass and Bioenergy, instigated the Bioenergy comic, and have attempted to explain bioenergy sustainability issues to everyone from the UK climate assembly to schoolchildren and radio listeners.
 

Professor Tony Bridgwater
EBRI Director of Research Implementation

Professor Tony Bridgwater first started working on biofuels in a study commissioned by the UK Government after the oil crises of the 1970s. Since then he has maintained a close interest in biomass to biofuel developments with extensive support from the European Commission, mostly through their Framework Programmes which involved cooperation with scientists and engineers from all over Europe.  He has led 10 EC projects and participated in a further 22. 

These activities were supplemented by the creation of a new Task on fast pyrolysis, known as PyNe, within IEA Bioenergy which he led for 12 years. He was selected as leader of the first EPSRC funded Supergen Bioenergy Hub in 2002 which he led for 8 years, and which was the precursor of the current Supergen Bioenergy Hub based at Aston.  These international activities have resulted in a global network of collaborators in every continent around the world. The fast pyrolysis research activities have always featured strongly in the research projects that have been carried out at Aston and which continue to be the main focus of our thermochemical biomass conversion research.


Tim Miller 
EBRI Director of Engagement

Tim provides a gateway for businesses and government to get easy access to both the cutting edge and applied knowledge at the institute. He can build the knowledge partnerships to develop new products and the processes needed to achieve a more sustainable society. If you are interested in the technologies and training that will increase your competitiveness in low carbon marketplaces and supply chains, please contact us through the link below for more information.
 

Dr Katie Chong 
EBRI Director of Research Outputs

Katie Chong is a lecturer in chemical engineering and EBRI Director of Research Outputs at Aston University. Katie has 17 years’ experience in the commercial and academic sectors working on bioenergy and process optimisation. Katie has a particular interest in the thermochemical conversion of biomass and wastes, biorefinery process synthesis and techno-economic evaluation. In particular, Katie likes to make techno-economic and environmental assessment data more accessible for the non-expert. In her role as EBRI Director of Research Outputs, Katie is responsible for the EBRI REF submission and supports EBRI researchers publish high quality, high impact research outputs.

Katie is also a Topic Group Representative for Conversion and Early Career Researcher (ECR) champion within the Supergen Bioenergy Hub, Regional Chair for the biomass and wastes special interest group of the Fuel and Energy Research Forum and is a committee member of the IChemE Clean Energy Special Interest Group.

Energy and Bioproducts Research Institute (EBRI) at Aston University

The Energy and Bioproducts Research Institute (EBRI) at Aston University in central Birmingham is a unique hub of bioenergy research and technology development.

EBRI is home to both academic and industry-facing teams that aim to accelerate the commercial development of emerging renewable energy, bioenergy, bioproducts and supporting technologies.

Our research and technology capabilities include a range of advanced thermal technologies and biological conversion processes. These include gasification, pyrolysis, catalysis, and thermochemical refining of biomass, wastes and plastics to high-quality products and fuels. We also provide valuable expertise in energy systems, supply chains, techno-economic analysis, transport logistics, analytics, engines and energy systems.

EBRI itself is the result of a £20 million investment designed to support the development of a regional bioenergy supply chain and to promote the uptake of innovative new bioenergy technologies across the West Midlands region.

Demonstration facilities at EBRI used in collaborative projects include a unique 1 MW, fully instrumented gasification pilot plant, a combined heat and power facility capable of meeting the heat, electricity and cooling needs of the building and UK-first demand-side managemet and vehicle to grid capability.

This unique development has unlocked a range of possibilities, from providing power to electric vehicles to creating low carbon networks for cities.

EBRI: Powering Birmingham

We are recognised as a major science and technical asset to the city, helping to reduce its carbon footprint and increase its energy efficiency. Our impact is not only environmental, however, as we have a successful track record of attracting inward investment from around the world and generating value for the local manufacturing and service sectors as a result.

As part of our commitment to the environment and the local area, we are currently supporting the development of a regional supply chain that will bring benefits to the region, in addition to helping create new and exciting high-growth sectors in the field of Smart Cities, unlocking opportunities nationally and internationally.

We have particular expertise in power management technologies, such as algorithmic demand-side management and the “internet of energy”.

Knowledge Transfer and Economic Impact

Independent feedback* on the impact of EBRI on the local West Midlands business community indicates that 100% of businesses felt that the support received from EBRI had had a positive impact on their company:

  • 47% said EBRI improved their competitiveness;
  • 76.5% said EBRI increased their awareness of bioenergy;
  • 26% had invested in bioenergy;
  • 28% had placed more orders with suppliers;
  • 28% of businesses had increased their investment in Research, Development and Innovation.

In accordance with HM Treasury "Green Book" methodologies, the economic impact of EBRI’s support for businesses included:

  • The creation of 234 new jobs in the West Midlands, including the provision of support to businesses and the wider supply chain;
  • An increase of over £28.9 million in Gross Value Added (GVA) through business support;
  • An increase in RD&I spend of over £1.97 million after businesses partnered with EBRI.

* EBRI Interim Evaluation Reports published June 2015 and April 2019

  • EBRI has supported 387 small and medium sized enterprises in the West Midlands (Oct 2020);
  • 211 companies have attended EBRI’s highly acclaimed ‘Value from Waste’ Master Class and Challenge Based Consultations – devised to help SMEs develop new products and services;
  • 97% of EBRI Master Class business attendees have rated the two-day course as ‘Excellent’ or ‘Very Good’.
Opportunities

We welcome collaboration opportunities with academia, government bodies and industry from the local region, and from around the globe. We are actively bidding for new research and industrial engagement projects to bring further benefits to the city’s economy.

Contact us at bioenergy@aston.ac.uk

 

The Energy and Bioproducts Research Institute (EBRI)

Discover the work that EBRI’s academic and industry-facing teams are doing to help the world meet its ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions and combating climate change, from Professor Patricia Thornley, Director of EBRI.

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Current Activities

How we support businesses