Hub Leaders Consultation Summary

Professor Patricia Thornley was identified to lead the next phase of the Supergen Programme and ultimately draw up a detailed proposal to establish a new Supergen Bioenergy Hub. She received a six-month grant to engage with UK bioenergy stakeholders and worked with Dr Aysha Roohi, Dr Andrew Welfle and professional facilitators (Creative Concern) to run a series of consultation events. The events covered a wide geographical area and had a slightly different technical focus and explored different functions of the new Hub.

Engagement plan

The consortium engagement plan aims were to comprehensively engage with the UK bioenergy research, industry and policy communities and integrate capacity in other sectors through engagement events:

  1. Stakeholder mapping, open meetings and engagement with new communities to integrate their research areas
  2. Professional, facilitated 2-way dialogue with existing UK policy, industry and academic communities to gather comprehensive perspectives on UK bioenergy research needs
  3. Development of community-wide research questions and a shared vision for UK bioenergy research by transparent sharing via accessible electronic platforms and remote participation
  4. Working with existing research communities
  5. Open selection of individuals committed to playing a role in the hub community

Consultation

The consultations events ran from September-November 2017 and a series of professionally facilitated workshops were held with industrial, policy and academic stakeholders to gain their perspectives on bioenergy futures and trajectories, evidence gaps, and research challenges. In total 11 events were held with 196 attendees that took place in York, London, Oxford, Manchester, Edinburgh, Hillsborough (NI), Drax (Selby), Peterborough and Cardiff.

Full meeting outputs are available at: http://www.supergen-bioenergy.net/hub-consultation/consultation-outputs/

  1. Stakeholder mapping

A complementary activity targeted over the course of the consultation events was to further understand the characteristics of the UK’s bioenergy expertise. A mapping exercise was undertaken to establish the location, specialisms and capabilities of the UK bioenergy sector. Using the existing Supergen Bioenergy Hub mailing list and a Report by Aston University as a starting point, attendees to each consultation event were invited to complete a survey enabling them to be ‘mapped’ within a new database. This process identified a network of almost 700 bioenergy stakeholders engaging with the UK bioenergy sector, including individuals from over 40 countries and from over 340 different Institutes, including over 130 Universities around the world. This database will be maintained by the Hub going forward and will be a key tool for identifying collaboration opportunities and maximising impact and engagement.           

  1. Professional, facilitated 2-way dialogue with existing UK policy, industry and academic communities

Events were planned with a focus on policy, NGO, industrial and academic engagement. Policy and NGO consultations were closed meetings while industrial and academic consultations were open to all UK bioenergy stakeholders. Events were planned to incorporate a workshop format employed by the external facilitators with special considerations to location, timings (only one consultation started before 10:00am) and accessibility. Additionally a remote access option was made available in the form of a 30 minute webinar for those who could not physically attend meetings.

Consultation attendees were encouraged to complete an anonymous demographics form to report to EPSRC the demographics of stakeholders engaged in the overall consultation process.


Closed meetings

Policy and NGO stakeholders were contacted directly and the ETI consultation took place after a strategy group meeting.

Policy

What are the key evidence gaps hampering constructive bioenergy deployment? What are the key issues or concerns precluding increases in targets for UK biofuels? What are the preferred vectors for bioenergy delivery from a whole energy systems/economic perspective?

NGO

What are the key evidence gaps that concern you in relation to bioenergy deployment in the UK and overseas?

ETI Energy Modelling Strategy Advisory Group

How will the rest of the energy system evolve? What role do you see for bioenergy? What are the evidence gaps or research priorities that concern you and what work do you think needs to be done on the integration of bioenergy with other technologies in the wider system?


Open meetings

Attendance to events was free of charge with online booking at Eventbrite (http://supergenbiohubconsultation.eventbrite.com).

Events were promoted on the Supergen Bioenergy Hub website, Twitter and mailing list (also via other mailing lists including the SHARE network, Twitter accounts and LinkedIn). Twitter was also used during meetings to engage with stakeholders who could not physically attend.

Industrial

Focused on pathways to different bioenergy futures and were held at UK universities where industrialists could tour facilities.

Supporting Bioenergy Demonstration: Fungible Hydrocarbons Aviation & Shipping – 25th September 2017, York (tour of Biorenewables Development Centre, University of York)

What is the role for liquid biofuels in the medium term and is this driven by carbon targets, security of supply, resource constraints or something else?

Supporting Bioenergy Development: Routes to BECCS & Hydrogen Production – 26th September 2017, London (tour of Carbon Capture Pilot plant and Prof Paul Fennel’s labs, Imperial College London)

What is the role for biomass in a hydrogen economy? How will CCS evolve and does this present distinct challenges for BECCS?

Supporting Industrial Bioenergy Deployment: Waste, Heat & Power – 3rd October, Manchester (tours of Manchester Institute of Biotechnology and high voltage laboratory, University of Manchester)

What are the engineering challenges faced in efficient conversion of biomass to electricity? What is impeding expansion of biomass heating? What are the alternatives to energy from waste for the biogenic fraction of municipal waste?

Academic

These were held at industrial or similar sites and an international guest was invited to each academic event to provide an international perspective.

Research Priorities in Biomass Resources – 27th September 2017, Oxford

What will be the dominant biomass resources in the UK in 10/20 years’ time? What could increase biomass yield significantly?

Research Priorities in Bioenergy Systems Analysis – 9th October 2017, Edinburgh

What are the research priorities in bioenergy systems analysis, including technical, environmental, social and economic aspects?  How can the bioenergy community engage with whole systems and other relevant research communities?

Research Priorities in Biomass Pre-treatment Technologies – 26th October 2017, Hillsborough NI (Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute site tours, Hillsborough)

What pre-treatment technologies can make more consistent fuels from waste? What pre-treatment options could disrupt cell structures facilitating conversion? Which pre-treatment technologies are low energy/environmentally benign?

Research Priorities in Bioenergy Vectors – 6th November 2017, Drax (tour of Drax)

For which energy vectors is biomass indispensable? Which bioenergy vectors can compete economically with fossil fuel equivalents? What high value products could be extracted alongside bioenergy production?

Research Priorities in Biomass Conversion – 16th November 2017, Cardiff (with a session focusing on ECR)

Which conversion technologies could facilitate high conversion efficiencies from biomass to electricity? Which conversion technologies are deployable at high efficiency at small scale? Which conversion technologies are tolerant to a wide range of feedstock contaminants? 

  1. Development of community-wide research questions and a shared vision for UK bioenergy research

To disseminate information and facilitate stakeholder discussions during the consultation process a series of networking groups were developed using Elsevier’s Mendeley Groups platform. Attendees to the consultation events were invited to join up to 7 different Mendeley groups, each providing a space for discussions focused on different themes of bioenergy research, to provide an overview on the consultation process and for early career researchers. Over the course of the consultation events the collective membership of these groups increased to over 300 stakeholders. The Supergen Hub will maintain these Groups going forward to engage with stakeholders about the Hub ongoing research news and activities. 

  1. Working with existing research communities

An academic consultation event was held in conjunction with the WATBIO ‘Developing Sustainable Bioenergy Crops for Future Climates’ conference and an industrial consultation was held following the HETAS-Woodsure ‘Ready to Burn’ Northern launch event.

There was Hub presence at LCEDN and REA events and attendees at the ETI: 10 years of Innovation event had the opportunity to fill out a consultation stakeholder mapping form.

During the consultation period Prof Thornley engaged with existing research communities and key industrialists. 

  1. Open selection of individuals committed to playing a role in the hub community

Information about roles in the new Hub and how to apply for them was made available on the Supergen Bioenergy Hub website. Consultation attendees were contacted directly about the application process and this information was also disseminated via the Supergen Bioenergy Hub mailing list. Anonymised applications were reviewed by Prof Thornley, international guests from academic consultations, and appropriate members of the steering committee.

Proposal development workshop

Topic Group Leaders and Topic Representatives were invited to a 2-day research proposal development workshop held in Manchester (Agenda). Day one of the workshop revolved around the different Topic Groups and was also attended by BBSRC representatives who shared their perspectives. Day two of the workshop was made up of sessions that included governance, engagement, equality and diversity, and researcher development.

Follow-up conversations were held in January with various individuals as the bid progressed to agree ways of working together moving forward, which were mostly incorporated into the bid that was submitted to EPSRC on 18th January 2018.

Heat map of consultation event attendees.

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