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01 Feb 2024

Park Royal Net Zero

Park Royal Net Zero Food Systems – Brunel University London Stand: H34
Park Royal Net Zero

A consortium led by Brunel University London has been awarded £2.5 million by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) for a 4-year project in which they will collaborate with food manufacturers based at Park Royal in West London to come up with innovative ways of reducing the emissions of food supply systems to as close to zero as possible.

The UK’s food sector is substantial, employing 4 million people, but has an oversized impact on environmental performance: it consumes nearly a fifth of the country’s energy and is responsible for about a third of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions. So getting the sector greener is of prime importance to help the UK meet its net zero goals.

The Park Royal industrial area – the largest business park in London, straddling the boroughs of Ealing and Brent – is ‘London’s Kitchen’, a thriving hub that’s home to more than 500 businesses in the food sector, who collectively produce 30% of the capital’s food and drink and contribute £8 billion a year to the economy. As with the broader UK food system, Park Royal’s businesses are grappling with technological challenges.

It will be the setting for the Place-Based Impact Accelerator Account (PBIAA) focused on net-zero food supply systems – one of ten PBIAAs announced today by EPSRC as a £41 million new scheme of research project funding to boost UK economic growth and address regional needs.

Starting in February next year, Brunel, alongside civic partner West London Business and higher education partner Harper Adams University, will develop a comprehensive programme tailored to address the challenges Park Royal faces with energy, waste and productivity.

This will bring about positive change by reducing carbon cost, improving resilience and stimulating economic growth in West London. The overarching mission is to foster circular food economies, fortify absorptive innovation capabilities, and supercharge productivity levels within the cluster of partners and stakeholders.

Professor Geoff Rodgers – Brunel’s Pro Vice-Chancellor of Enterprise and Employment, who as project co-investigator will lead on the civic and business engagement aspects of the project – said: “The Park Royal industrial area is a significant asset within the London and UK economies and an important employment centre in West London.

“This award provides an exciting opportunity to build our relationship with Park Royal’s food businesses whilst helping to address the challenges they face with issues such as net zero, automation and waste.

“The project will open up numerous opportunities for Brunel academics to engage in impact and collaboration activities and will cement the relationships that Brunel has developed over the past two years.”

Professor Savvas Tassou – director of Brunel’s Institute of Energy Futures, who as principal investigator will provide technical leadership for the project – said: “The project offers a tremendous challenge but also opportunities for Brunel, Harper Adams and academics across the UK to work closely with the food businesses at Park Royal and their supply chains to accelerate innovation, productivity and decarbonisation of the food supply system – at Park Royal and beyond.

“Ultimately, this project aims to set a benchmark for excellence and innovation in the broader UK food and drink sector.”

Brunel’s established expertise in engineering, materials and manufacturing, digital technologies and food supply chains will be enhanced through its partnership with Harper Adams, which brings complementary expertise in fields including low-carbon food production, vertical farming, urban agriculture, brewing, indoor farming and sustainable business practices.

The research team will be organised into five key capability areas, each essential for the project’s success:

  • Innovative net-zero energy systems
  • Digitalisation and automation of food manufacturing
  • Waste reduction and valorisation
  • Decarbonisation of transport
  • Low-carbon food production.

The low-carbon food production area will be managed by the team from Harper Adams, coordinated by Dr Iona Huang, who will also lead on the engagement with the wider food systems academic community.

Speaking about the new scheme of PBIAAs nationwide, Professor Miles Padgett, Interim Executive Chair at EPSRC, said: “I’m pleased to announce our first ten Place Based Impact Acceleration Accounts which will play a unique role in enhancing the capabilities of innovation clusters across the UK. A key priority for UKRI is to strengthen clusters and partnerships in collaboration with civic bodies and businesses, thereby driving regional economic growth.”

George Freeman MP, Science Minister, added: “The UK is already home to clusters of world-class science and technology talent, bringing together top universities, cutting-edge research institutes and enterprising businesses of all sizes, and it is crucial we channel these hubs of scientific advance and growth to level up our country. From skilling up South Wales and Central Scotland with hundreds of jobs in semiconductors and photonics, to boosting the North-West of England’s biotechnology sector and trebling the economic return for the region, our £41 million investment will help enhance these clusters’ vast potential for the good of our local economies and the wider country.”


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