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Shadow Chancellor visits University for glimpse of a greener future

George Osborne visiting the Faculty of Engineering

George Osborne visiting the Faculty of Engineering John McWilliams, Faculty of Engineering

16 January 2009

The Faculty of Engineering hosted a visit from George Osborne, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, today. Mr Osborne chose the Faculty as the venue to announce the launch of the Conservative Party's green paper on Green Technologies because of the University’s reputation in technologies for the environment.

Mr Osborne was met by the Vice-Chancellor and members of the Faculty of Engineering and taken on a tour of the Queen’s Building.

Professor Alan Champneys gave him an overview of the BRITE Futures Institute, an exciting new venture in the University that aims to send a unified message to external stakeholders about BRIstol University's research strengths in Technologies (defined in the broadest possible terms) for the Environment.  This is a cross-University initiative being led by the Faculty of Engineering which draws together internationally-leading research in six themes:  energy, water, transport and communications, built environment, hazards and risk, and global climate change.

Mr Osborne particularly expressed his interest in the approach taken by the University in using systems integration and complexity science to design technologies for a ‘smart’ national grid which is more like the internet where local renewable energy generation can be fed into the grid.  He was also impressed by the range of industrial partnerships that are underpinning the University's work in this area.

He then sat in on part of an undergraduate lecture on digital signal processing, and visited the electrical engineering laboratories.  There, he was shown a demonstrator model of the tidal stream device being built by Tidal Generation Ltd (TGL), a company based in the University Gate SETsquared space.  Jeremy King, who built the demonstrator, was an undergraduate in Aerospace Engineering and is now an Engineering Doctoral student in the Systems EngD Centre, working in partnership with TGL.

A power converter built by Dr Dave Drury and his team for putting renewable energy onto the grid in a way that can be used directly, was also shown to Mr Osborne, and in Dr Bernard Stark's lab, he saw a wide range of different renewable energy devices: from micro scale generators to large scale power management devices for wind turbines.

Mr Osborne said that the approach being taken by the University is exactly in line with the kind of technologies and University/business partnerships that are outlined in the green paper being launched today.  He also expressed an interest in some of the other themes of the BRITE Futures Institute, particularly the driverless transport ULTRA, a product of a University of Bristol spin-out company, being used for Heathrow’s Terminal 5 car park.

Professor Champneys said: "I am amazed that Bristol was chosen as the site to launch this green paper.  Clearly the reputation of the BRITE Futures Institute has already reached Westminster, even before it has been formally launched!"

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