Consortium to train next generation of decarbonisation experts

Wednesday, 13 March 2024

A consortium including the University of Nottingham has received more than ten million pounds to open a doctoral training centre that will focus on leading the UK towards net zero.

Based at, and led by, Aston University, the centre will bring together world-leading research expertise and facilities from Nottingham, Queens University Belfast, the University of Warwick, and more than 25 industry partners.

The centre, named NET2Zero, will focus on use of biomass to replace fossil fuels and removal (or capture) of CO2 from the atmosphere, with the potential to create new sources of fuels and chemicals. Integration of these two areas will lead to significant cost and energy savings.

PhD students will be trained across the full range of engineered greenhouse gas removal techniques, including direct air capture, CO2 utilisation (including chemical and material synthesis), biomass to energy with carbon capture and storage and biochar. Supported by a range of relevant industrial, academic, and policy partners, the centre will equip students to develop the broad range of skills essential for future leaders in decarbonisation.

Funding for the Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) has been announced by the Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary, Michelle Donelan. The centre is to receive almost £8million of government money while the remainder will be made up through match funding and support from industry and the four universities. The government has described it as part of the UK’s biggest-ever investment in engineering and physical sciences doctoral skills, totalling more than one billion pounds.

Michelle Donelan, Science and Technology Secretary, said: “As innovators across the world break new ground faster than ever, it is vital that government, business and academia invests in ambitious UK talent, giving them the tools to pioneer new discoveries that benefit all our lives while creating new jobs and growing the economy."

By targeting critical technologies, we are supporting world class universities across the UK to build the skills base we need to unleash the potential of future tech and maintain our country’s reputation as a hub of cutting-edge research and development.
Michelle Donelan, Science and Technology Secretary

Professor Hao Liu, Head of the Low Carbon Energy and Resources Technologies (LCERT) Research Group at the University of Nottingham, and Dr Eleanor Binner, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering, will lead the University of Nottingham’s participation with the NET2Zero CDT.

Ellie Binner stood looking at a camera.
We are absolutely delighted to be working with our partners to deliver this unique and exciting programme to train the technology leaders of the future. Our students will deliver research outcomes that are urgently needed and only made possible by combining the expertise and resources of all the Centre’s academic and industry partners.
Dr Eleanor Binner

Centres for Doctoral Training have a significant reputation in training future UK academics, industrialists and innovators who have gone on to develop the latest technologies.

We look forward to providing our best support to the NET2Zero CDT, including using our past and existing successful experience in leading other centres, to make this an exemplar.
Professor Hao Liu

Professor Patricia Thornley, Leader of Net2Zero and Director of Aston University’s Energy and Bioproducts Research Institute (EBRI), said: “I am delighted that this centre for doctoral training has been funded. The climate emergency is so stark that we can no longer rely on demand reduction and renewables to meet our decarbonisation targets.

“If we are to have greenhouse gas removal options ready in time to be usefully deployed, we need to start now to expand our knowledge and explore the reality of how these can be deployed. This partnership of four leading UK universities with key industrial and policy partners will significantly augment the UK’s ability to deliver on its climate ambitions.”

“We are absolutely delighted to be working with our partners to deliver this unique and exciting programme to train the technology leaders of the future. Our students will deliver research outcomes that are urgently needed and only made possible by combining the expertise and resources of all the centre’s academic and industry partners.”

Overall, there will be 65 new Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs), which will support leading research in areas of national importance, including the critical technologies AI, quantum technologies, semiconductors, telecoms, and engineering biology. The funding is from a combination of £500 million from UK Research and Innovation and the Ministry of Defence, plus a further £590 million from universities and business partners.

Professor Charlotte Deane, executive chair of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation, said: “The Centres for Doctoral Training that have been announced will help to prepare the next generation of researchers, specialists, and industry experts across a wide range of sectors and industries.

“Spanning locations across the UK and a wide range of disciplines, the new centres are a vivid illustration of the UK’s depth of expertise and potential, which will help us to tackle large-scale, complex challenges and benefit society and the economy."

The high calibre of both the new centres and applicants is a testament to the abundance of research excellence across the UK, and EPSRC’s role as part of UKRI is to invest in this excellence to advance knowledge and deliver a sustainable, resilient and prosperous nation.
Professor Charlotte Deane

Story credits

More information is available from Danielle Hall, Media Relations Manager at the University of Nottingham, at or 0115 846 7156. 

Danielle Hall - Media Relations Manager - Faculty of Engineering
Phone: 0115 846 7156

Notes to editors:

About the University of Nottingham

Ranked 32 in Europe and 16th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings: Europe 2024, the University of Nottingham is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement.

Nottingham was crowned Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 – the third time it has been given the honour since 2018 – and by the Daily Mail University Guide 2024.

The university is among the best universities in the UK for the strength of our research, positioned seventh for research power in the UK according to REF 2021. The birthplace of discoveries such as MRI and ibuprofen, our innovations transform lives and tackle global problems such as sustainable food supplies, ending modern slavery, developing greener transport, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

The university is a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally - and our graduates are the second most targeted by the UK's top employers, according to The Graduate Market in 2022 report by High Fliers Research.

We lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, a pioneering collaboration between the city’s two world-class institutions to improve levels of prosperity, opportunity, sustainability, health and wellbeing for residents in the city and region we are proud to call home.

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