ECR Net Zero Conference 2024 – Business speed networking workshop (ECR Meeting Fund)

Sunera Athauda (Cranfield University) and Fayez Qureshi (Cranfield University) share their takeaways from the parallel session on “Business speed networking workshop” at the ECR Net Zero Conference 2024.

It was a cold and damp February morning in the city of Birmingham, and yet the attendees from various research organisations within the broader net zero research community were sampling the delicious food and drink provided by the wonderful catering staff of Birmingham Conference and Events Centre, ready to engage in one of the three parallel sessions on the final day of the ECR Net Zero Conference.

One of these sessions, ‘Business speed networking workshop’, was facilitated by Amy Beierholm (University of Birmingham), Lennie Foster (ERA & C-DICE) and Iniobong James “IJ” Ikpeh (C-DICE), with the aim of fostering collaboration between academia, businesses and industry within the scope of Net Zero.

Our first speaker was IJ Ikpeh of C-DICE, who provided details on several opportunities for funding for early career researchers (e.g. Research Proposal Development Grant & Networking Grant), which included: Biochar: ECR (< £40k, deadline: 22nd March 2024), CO2RE (< £60k, 26th March 2024), EDI+ Fellowship (2 years, 0.2 FTE), HI-ACT: EOI, IGNITE Network+ EDI Challenges (opens April, deadline: 17th May 2024), SUSTAIN ECR 2024 Call: ECR (opens Sept/Oct 2024). Further details on these openings can be found on C-DICE website:

Our next presentation was delivered by Jon Saltmarsh, CTO of Energy Systems Catapult, a not-for-profit company who provide technical, commercial and policy expertise with the aim of advancing UK’s Net Zero strategy and developing future energy systems, via ‘whole system approach’ that can aid research innovations’ pathways to commercialisation. Their expertise has been employed via five main approaches: aiding fast expansion of home energy innovations via real-world-testing, acceleration of at-scale emission reduction across all sectors (e.g. industrial, public, commercial), empowerment of local authorities and network operators to implement Net Zero protocols, advising leaders (e.g. governments, investors, networks, businesses) on policy and regulation of Net Zero energy systems, cultivate relationships with domestic and foreign SME partners for UK innovation to thrive. Currently, they are interested in collaborating with ECRs with big ideas that can make the biggest impact to achieve Net Zero:

Then we heard from Kenneth Freeman, Director of SAO Innovations, whose company has one specific aim: eradication of fires in buildings and products caused by electricity. The drive for such innovation was derived from the London Grenfell Tower fire disaster, which took the lives of 72 people, due to a fire caused by an electrical fault in a fridge freezer. Mr Freeman was told that to stop all electrical fires in any building and any product using electricity was near impossible, which are mainly caused by wear & tear, misuse, component failure, human error and poor quality products. However, SAO Innovation’s ‘Electrical Fire Prevention System’ and ‘Intelligent Conduit’ is an innovative system and product that can do it. It was shortlisted for the Safety Innovation Award at the Electrical Product Safety Conference 2021, approved by the UK patent office and patented on July 2021, and have collaborated with a number of academic institutions (e.g. University of Wolverhampton, University of Birmingham) and businesses (e.g. accepted into Siemens ‘Solid Edge for Start-ups’ programme).

Gary Morgan (Director), from Pixelshrink Digital Impact, one of the UK’s leading web design and digital marketing agency for academic research, wanted to discuss their specialisation in bridging the gap between research projects and their diverse audiences. The company has projects based in the UK, Norway, Portugal and Germany, with their specialist services allowing for the enhancement of research and communication, especially for early career researchers (ECRs). Some of the services include content creation, data design – infographics, hosting and legacy, domain names, project acronym creator and multi- lingual sites, etc.:

Our final talk was given by representatives from Imfuna, a software technology company aiding early career researchers to understand processes, and create automated systems to solve repetitive tasks, improve efficiency, enhance collaboration, easily storing value from the field into professional made reports. Current methods of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) panel assessment lacks accuracy and are manually intensive, leading to ineffective risk management in public buildings. To solve this, a centralised database infrastructure is designed to store data about each RAAC panel with all property stake holders to having access to up-to-date information source. Moreover, risk-based prioritisation algorithms can be made for automating analysis and decision making for factors such as environmental structural conditions, potential financial impact, etc.  Therefore, their tools allow professionals to assess the condition of a structure.  Overall, Imfuna aims to reduce emissions in operations by enabling remote surveying and collaboration, whilst reducing travel-related emissions:

After the delivery of these presentation, attendants had the opportunity to openly discuss with all the speakers at the session, for the purpose of collaboration and networking.