Aura announces today (26 April 2018) that it has secured major funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) of £4 million to build the Aura Innovation Centre (AIC), as well as provide a programme of innovation support for Humber-based SMEs in the offshore wind and low carbon sectors.
Supported by a further £2.5 million from Green Port Hull and £5.5 million match funding from the University of Hull, the Centre, which will be built at Bridgehead near the Humber Bridge, will provide a focus for business to drive innovation through collaboration in the low-carbon energy sector. Construction on the AIC is expected to commence towards the end of 2018 with completion by end 2019.
The development and presence of the AIC in the Humber region will strengthen the region’s international standing as a centre of excellence in offshore wind innovation.
Speaking at Offshore Wind Connections conference in Hull today, Ben George, recently appointed Director of Aura, said: “It is often SMEs who are prepared to innovate, think and operate differently. The Aura Innovation Centre, which we are launching today at OWC, is all about encouraging that innovative thinking. It’s about fostering a place where collaboration can happen easily to kick-start the low-carbon energy supply chain here in the Energy Estuary. By bringing together all the different players to develop a robust and sustainable network, we will ensure that the UK continues to lead the way in offshore wind, regionally, nationally and globally.
“The substantial funding that we now have in place to build the Aura Innovation Centre here in the Energy Estuary is the culmination of a vision that the original Aura Partners (the University of Hull, GreenPortHull, the Humber LEP, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy and Ørsted) had two years ago – which was to see the Energy Estuary as The Hub for offshore wind and low carbon innovation. Since then the Aura partnership has grown and will continue to expand as we seek to collaborate more widely.”
Dr David Richards, Pro Vice Chancellor, Research and Enterprise at the University of Hull, said “I am delighted to see that this vision is becoming a reality. We still have a lot to do but this is certainly the right time – this major win for the region comes just as a sector deal for offshore wind is being negotiated with the Government. Part of the industry’s vision is to create clusters, much like the activity here in this region, which will bring growth not only to the sector but to other industries. “Additionally, last week the Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC) announced a review of the supply chain, and part of that review is looking at how SMEs can join this growing industry.”
Aura, with support from GreenPortHull, brings together significant expertise in renewable energy through a powerful partnership that includes Ørsted and Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, the universities of Hull, Sheffield and Durham, the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult (OREC), CATCH (an industry led training partnership), the National Oceanography Centre and the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
Recruiting for the AIC team will commence imminently, with positions being established in advance of the building completion in order to support the SME community as soon as possible.
In October 2017, the University of Hull and the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult further consolidated the Energy Estuary’s position as a global hub for offshore wind by joining forces to launch a £2 million Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Centre of Excellence. The five-year partnership will develop a series of research and innovation projects to improve the way offshore wind farms are operated and maintained.
In addition, an Aura collaboration, including the University of Hull, won a £7.6m funding bid from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to improve the country’s offshore wind power technologies. Led by the University of Sheffield, the five-year programme will address research challenges and will help to reduce the cost of electricity from offshore wind.
Engineering experts from Hull will look at the performance management of turbines to better predict their lifespan, as well as using bone modelling research to design sections of blades to make them lighter and stronger.