Global collaboration invests in clean energy innovation

Tuesday, 19 September, 2023

Global collaboration invests in clean energy innovation

The US National Science Foundation (NSF) — along with partner funding agencies from Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom — has announced the NSF Global Centers in Climate Change and Clean Energy (Global Centers) program. These international, interdisciplinary collaborative research centres will apply best practices of broadening participation and community engagement to develop use-inspired research on climate change and clean energy.

Both collectively and independently, the centres will support convergent interdisciplinary research collaborations focused on assessing and mitigating the impacts of climate change on society, people and communities. The centres will also create and promote opportunities for students and early-career researchers to gain education and training in world-class research while enhancing diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility.

Global Centers are sponsored in part by a multilateral funding activity led by NSF and four partner funding organisations: Australia’s CSIRO, Canada’s Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and the United Kingdom’s UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Together, these organisations have pledged more than AU$118 million in investment over five years to confront the challenges of a changing climate and continue the charge towards net zero emissions.

Outcomes from Global Centers’ activities are set to inform and catalyse the development of innovative solutions and technologies to address climate change. Examples include: enhancing awareness of critical information; advancing and advocating for decarbonisation efforts; creating climate change adaptation plans tailored to specific localities and groups; using artificial intelligence to study responses of nature to climate change; transboundary water issues; and scaling the production of next-generation technologies aimed at achieving net zero.

The funding is being divided into two tracks. Track 1 features implementation grants, with co-funding from international partners. Two projects in Track 1 are being steered by Australian innovations:

  • The Electric Power Innovation for a Carbon-free Society (EPICS) Centre will be a global scientific leader in developing transformative computing, economic strategies, engineering solutions and forward-thinking policy to enable a completely renewable energy power grid. This joint project involves the US, the UK and Australia and is led by CSIRO and AEMO, The University of Melbourne and Monash University in Australia.
  • The Global Hydrogen Production Technologies (HyPT) Centre is pioneering large-scale net-zero hydrogen production methods. It explores three innovative technologies: renewable energy-integrated water electrolysis, methane pyrolysis with valuable solid carbon co-products and solar-driven water splitting. The University of Adelaide, Flinders University and Curtin University represent Australia in this international collaboration, working with partners from the US, Canada, the UK, Egypt and Germany.

Track 2 meanwhile includes design grants, to provide seed funding to develop the teams and the science for future competitions. These multidisciplinary teams, which involve many additional countries, will coordinate the research and education efforts needed to become competitive for Track 1 funding in the future.

“NSF builds capacity and advances its priorities through these centres of research excellence by uniting diverse teams from around the world,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “Global Centers will sync talent across the globe to generate the discoveries and solutions needed to empower resilient communities everywhere.”

Image credit: CSIRO.

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