Saila Seppo

Evaluation panel: New Energy Academy Programme was a good investment

22 Dec 2021

The New Energy Academy Programme conducted world-leading research into renewable energy, energy systems, energy availability and new business models in the energy sector. As a whole, the research conducted in the programme was of a very high scientific standard.

The current energy transition is going to change many things in our lives, and we can become energy producers too. There is a lot of research to be done. In addition to studying renewable energy and energy systems, we must study energy availability and new business models. The most prominent research is related to batteries and their recharging, but also to hydrogen.

The New Energy Academy Programme (2015–2020) conducted world-leading research of high scientific standard. Based on a bibliometric analysis, more than half of the programme publications have been made in international collaboration, and the publications are on average clearly of higher quality than other publications in the same field.

The evaluation panel of the Academy Programme stated in its report that the programme had very strong scientific results and that it had an impact on industry, society and education of early-career researchers.

The panel also acknowledged the benefits of creating an Academy Programme in a certain thematic area that promotes national and international research collaboration through diverse programme activities. Academy Programmes have a lot of possibilities to create new networks. Diverse researchers in various different fields are offered a number of channels to develop further, as they meet at joint seminars. In addition, the company visits of the programmes give important perspectives and encourage collaboration.

Huge success stories of new energy research

The evaluation panel selected three success stories from the programme for a closer examination. They had implemented the objectives of the programme exceptionally well in terms of either leaping forward in science, collaboration or interdisciplinary approach. The panel also highlighted the successes of other projects in the report. For example, the Inno Indigo ERA-Net Energy 2016 call’s international project Holistic processes and practices for clean energy in strengthening bioeconomic strategies (INDO-NORDEN) conducted responsible science by involving laypersons in the project. The researchers of the project visited, among other things, comprehensive schools to discuss their research project.

The first success story was brought on by leaping forward in science. The Improving the value of variable and uncertain power generation in energy systems (VaGe) consortium has revolutionised the modelling of energy systems by developing an open source code ─ a modular and highly versatile modelling framework. It will improve the estimates of the variable and uncertain electricity generation in energy systems.

The researcher mobility in foreign universities and the effectiveness of collaboration and networking made the Catalytic aqueous phase reforming of biorefinery water fractions (AQUACAT) consortium a success story. The consortium found support for its research at the University of Twente in the Netherlands and at Imperial College London. The consortium studied the catalysts that can be used to convert the organic residues in the wastewater of biorefineries into valuable gases, such as hydrogen. The consortium researchers submitted a patent application for their results.

The third success story was built on a cross-disciplinary approach. The panel urged the projects to strive for a cross-disciplinary approach and saw that many consortia already published in cross-disciplinary scientific publications. In the early stages of a project, it is important to collaborate particularly with industry, as it will be easier to find continuation for the research as, for example, a Business Finland project. Ordinary citizens who have something significant to offer for a project can also be included in the consortia.

It is difficult to assemble multidisciplinary groups and conduct high-quality research across disciplines. The Change in Business Ecosystems for Local Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency – Better Energy Services for Customers (USE) consortium succeeded in this. The project was implemented by a balanced combination of social and environmental scientists, engineers and researchers in industrial management and automation and system technology.

The results of the USE consortium received extensive international attention from researchers. The main result was the adoption of the ecosystem concept from natural sciences to plan embedded renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions for the current energy transition. The consortium also provided a background paper for Finland’s Medium-term Climate Change Policy Plan in 2017.

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