Whole systems networking fund: final conference

9:30 AM - 6:00 PM, 5 December 2019
UKERC , The City Centre, 80 Basinghall Street, London, United Kingdom

Innovating the UK’s energy research sector

Over the past two and a half years, UKERC dedicated £1.5m of new UKRI EPSRC funding – the Whole Systems Networking Fund (WSNF) – to work with stakeholders from universities, the private sector, NGOs, and government to shape new agendas for UK energy research.

The goal was to spark new ideas, approaches and collaborations that, if given further impetus, could make substantial contributions to energy research within the overall objective of transforming the energy system.


This conference aims to:

  • Showcase the work of the WSNF projects – the majority of chairs and panelists at this conference are WSNF project leaders.
  • Share ideas for the energy research community to take forward.
  • Help UKERC assess the impact of WSNF.



9.30 Registration & coffee

10.00 Welcome – Prof Jim Watson (UKERC)

10.30 Equality, diversity and inclusion: from evidence to action (plenary)

Chair: Prof Patricia Thornley (Aston University)

Panel: Dr Jess Britton (University of Exeter); Laura Brown, Dr Sara Walker (Newcastle University); Dr Rebecca Willis, Dr Caterina Brandmayr (Green Alliance); Dr Gbemi Oluleye (Imperial College); Dr Zoe Harris (Imperial College); Dr Grant Wilson (University of Birmingham); other speaker tbc

11.30 Break

11.40 Parallel sessions (x3)

Format: short presentations based on projects (30 min); followed by general discussion/questions and summing-up main messages (30 min).

Please choose which session you would like to attend.

  1. Heat decarbonisation: who needs to be involved, and how?

In the session we will look at three pilot projects from the WSNF that are mobilising an innovative and often untapped new community across the universities, NGOs, and among the public, ready and willing to support heat decarbonisation. What are the major lessons that ought to inform larger-scale efforts?

Chair: Dr Gbemi Oluleye (Imperial College)

Panel: Dr Zoe Harris (Imperial College), Dr Richard Lowes (University of Exeter); Dr Inna Vorushylo (Ulster University); other speaker tbc

  1. Maintenance, waste (and obsolescence): How can researchers add to our understanding of these vitally important but often less-discussed features of the energy system?

The energy transition is about maintenance, waste – and obsolescence (of carbon-generating devices). In this session, an eclectic mix of examples will be discussed, such as maintenance issues in offshore windfarms; waste/recycling from solar and storage devices; nuclear waste; and legal frameworks governing cross-border waste movement. Blue skies thinking encouraged on whether there are commonalities (or not! – an equally valid answer).

Chair: Prof Feargal Brennan (University of Strathclyde)

Panel: Dr Britta Turner (Durham University); Dr Gloria Alvarez (University of Aberdeen); Prof Richard Taylor FREng (University of Manchester)

  1. Science and industrial strategy: The UK operates in a competitive, globalised, context. How can it harness its ‘science base’ to drive jobs and growth (and the energy transition)?

A perennial question with no simple or clear-cut answers – but are new perspectives beginning to emerge? In this session we will look at three examples studied in the WSNF: a whole-systems framework for solar innovation; building the UK’s real ‘offshore’ economy (value-add for offshore wind turbines); and decarbonising road freight (the latter vitally important in a consumption-based economy).

Chair: Dr Philippa Oldham (Advanced Propulsion Centre)

Panel: Thalia Skoufa (Energy Systems Catapult); Dr Annie Linley (University of Plymouth); Kerry Hayes (Regen); Prof Alison Walker (University of Bath); Matthew Billson (Head of Strategy – Energy Innovation, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy)

12.40 Summing-up main messages from parallel sessions (plenary)

Chair: Dr William Burns (UKERC)

13.00 Lunch

14.00 New frameworks for interdisciplinary research (plenary)

This session concerns the practice of interdisciplinary research, and will focus on potential new intellectual frameworks for projects between engineers, and social/natural scientists – with a particular focus on the unexplored possibilities of energy law.

Chair: Dr Gloria Alvarez (University of Aberdeen)

Panel: Prof Raphael Heffron (University of Dundee); Anneliese Allen-Norris (Environmental Defense Fund), other speaker tbc

15.00 Afternoon tea & posters. Delegates are invited to bring along banners, posters, and/or other materials for display that showcase their research (these need not be specially prepared for the conference).

15.30 Communicating energy: how to get ‘the evidence’ across in a chaotic age? (plenary)

Chair: Matt Howard (Head of Engagement, Faraday Institution; formerly Chief Communications Officer, Argonne National Laboratory, USA)

Panel: Dr Chris Foulds (Anglia-Ruskin University); Dr Rebecca Willis, Dr Caterina Brandmayr (Green Alliance); Anneliese Allen-Norris (Environmental Defense Fund); Dr Long-Seng To (Loughborough University); speaker from European Commission (tbc)

16.30 Summing-up: Dr Keith Maclean OBE (Chair, Scientific Advisory Committee, UKRI Energy Programme)

16.45 Conference close

16.45-18.00 Festive networking session (optional)

Agenda under development and may be subject to change.

This is an invitation-only meeting. Please email william.burns@ukerc.ac.uk if you would like to attend.