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NEWS & INSIGHTS | article

Innovation can inspire us all to turn over a new leaf

14 February 2022 4 minute read

Net Zero Technology Centre approves more than 300 projects that powers a net zero energy industry

The last decade or so has seen a huge shift in attitudes to net zero carbon. There is now a strong and growing recognition that fossil fuels can play their part in the transition, with innovation and new thinking being used to bolster the green energy revolution.

This change of mindset has been stimulated by the Net Zero Technology Centre, an exciting venture created as part of the Aberdeen City Region Deal and charged with developing and deploying technology to build an affordable zero carbon energy industry.

The organisation has just celebrated its fifth anniversary. It may have been in existence for a relatively short time, but the centre’s Chief Executive, Colette Cohen, reflects that the outlook on climate change has changed radically over that period.

“We hadn’t quite entered into the energy transition place we are in today when we launched in 2017”, she recalls. “There is now so much understanding of and drive for action on climate change.

“There were a lot of concerns around oil and gas at the time we were formed and we were brought in to aid the industry in terms of recovery. The aim was to maximise the value of the North Sea.

“However, from the very beginning, we put together a technology roadmap, recognising that we need to be thinking about things like automation, robotics and subsea as well as our carbon footprint.”

The centre continues to work on leveraging innovative technology to ensure a net zero energy future. Oil and gas are still needed and will continue to be for the foreseeable future, because products continue to be created from them and they can produce energy efficiently.

“We have to ensure this is done with the lowest carbon footprint possible” Ms Cohen adds. “That is in our DNA. We have underpinned our work with a huge amount of activity and investment.”

The statistics speak for themselves. Over the five years, a total of £192 million has been co-invested by the centre with industry. More than 300 projects have been approved, a total of 1450 technologies screened and 86 field trials completed.

The organisation has also seen 29 commercialisations, forged relationships with 64 partners and helped with the acceleration of 33 start-ups, with 12 currently beginning their innovation journey.

The centre’s strategy focuses on delivering technology in three key areas. These are emissions reduction; energy systems integration; and the deployment of digitisation and automation to drive emissions reduction and a net zero future – the so-called Offshore Energy 4.0 initiative.

“Considering that we only started in February 2017, I think we have enjoyed a phenomenal success rate. We have a clear vision of how we will develop innovation”, Ms Cohen says.

She is particularly pleased at the way in which companies have been helped by the centre. “Our TechX programme is an accelerator where we invest in the companies, while our Solutions Centre invests in the technology.

“We try and help a small young business to go from a great idea to a fully fledged and functioning operation. Importantly, virtually all the ones we have been involved with have come through the pandemic and are still thriving. We have a really high success rate.

“We are also using our newest cohort of 12 start-up companies to champion diversity and inclusion in the emerging heavy industry arena. It’s an area where we currently don’t have as many females as we would like.

“The average of women co-founders globally is between 8 and 14 per cent – we want to get to more than 30 per cent. We have actually exceeded that with this new group.”

She is delighted, she says, that the oil and gas industry has shown so much support for the sector. “It has been very supportive of the fact that we can get ideas into field trials as quickly as we possibly can.”

Colette Cohen believes that the centre’s success is founded on strong intent, proper funding and having a highly committed and talented team. “We also have a great industry to support.

“Our focus is clear – we are here to develop and deploy technology and to accelerate an affordable net zero energy system. We have to get to a point where our next generation of energy is cost competitive with existing sources.

“We need to ensure it is as cheap as gas and coal. That means helping floating wind to be super cost competitive and ensuring that our oil and gas is clean and inexpensive in order to be able to supply the UK. And we need to accelerate the next generation of energy systems.”

The full article was printed in Herald Scotland, you can read the full article here:

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