Strathclyde wins Queen’s Anniversary prize for higher and further education

Published:  28 November, 2019

The University of Strathclyde has been named as one of the winners of a prestigious award that recognises world-class excellence and achievement at academic institutions.

Strathclyde has been awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education, the highest national honour conferred on the sector. It is presented to a small selection of UK institutions every two years.

The award recognises institutions which show “quality and innovation” and deliver “real benefit to the wider world and public through education and training.” Strathclyde was selected as the winner for its excellence in energy innovation.

Strathclyde Principal Professor Sir Jim McDonald said: “This award is a tremendous honour and an endorsement at the very highest level of our achievements as a leading international technological university.

“A safe, secure and reliable energy supply is essential to any well-functioning society. Our research, education and industrial partnerships are at the forefront of ensuring the energy sector, and the policy regulating it, is able to meet increasing demand and to adapt to the major imperatives of climate change through innovative technology and policy solutions that decarbonise our energy system.

“However, such a supply should not be taken for granted and energy continues to present significant challenges in many parts of the world. We also work in partnership with communities overseas to support the development of energy provision to underpin education, health care and overall quality of life.

“The Queen’s Anniversary Prize is among the greatest accolades a higher education institution in the UK can be awarded and we are proud to receive it as recognition of our extensive work in energy innovation.”

Strathclyde is a long-standing leader in energy research, with more than 250 researchers working at any given time on energy systems innovations and more than 300 PhD graduates over the past decade with expertise in the field. The University also has a roster of spinout companies making valuable contributions to the enhancement of energy provision and it plays a prominent role in informing energy policy in Scotland, UK and beyond.

Assessment of entries was made through a rigorous independent process, lasting around six months, after which a shortlist was created and recommendations were made by the Awards Council of the Royal Anniversary Trust for the approval of HM The Queen. The award was announced at a reception at St James’ Palace on Thursday 21 November and is to be officially presented at Buckingham Palace on Thursday 20 February 2020.

Strathclyde’s contributions to energy innovation include:

• the largest portfolio in the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s (EPSRC) Supergen (Sustainable Power Generation) programme – in smart grid and offshore renewable energy – with leadership positions in funded consortium projects worth a total of more than £34million. This has supported the formation of the largest critical mass of academics working on electrical power and energy in Europe.

• the development of a novel risk assessment methodology for distributed generator protection, which led to modifications in the UK Distribution Code and Engineering Recommendation governing this area. The change, which took effect in February 2018, enabled savings in the wider costs of UK electricity system operation amounting to an estimated cumulative net present value – up to 2024 – of £220 million, calculated by National Grid.

• Strathclyde’s Power Networks Demonstration Centre has conducted critical evaluation and prototype enhancement on a range of smart grid technologies, including a satellite-communications enabled integrated energy system deployed on the island of Mull and technology for low-voltage interconnection deployed in the London grid with UKPN (UK Power Networks).

• Strathclyde spinout companies in the energy sector are delivering value in solutions and deployments across the UK. These include Smarter Grid Solutions, which has transformed active network management implementations across the UK and, in partnership with Northern Powergrid, has ensured that remote communities are better served with reliable electricity. In addition, the company’s technology is ensuring that distributed energy resources can be widely applied in the South West of England and in Wales, through its work with Western Power Distribution, and it recently provided a solution for a German utility, allowing further penetration of distributed energy resources within the nation. Another spinout, Bellrock Technology, has produced an AI-driven software platform which underpins the monitoring of power generation assets to maximise operational life and safe operations.

• Strathclyde’s many experts and authorities on energy play a significant part in informing energy policy. Sir Jim is co-chair, with Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, of the Scottish Government Energy Advisory Board, which makes direct input to UK Government energy activity. Professor Keith Bell, of the University’s Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, was appointed a member of the UK’s Committee on Climate Change in 2019 and previously served on an International Expert Commission convened by the Government of the Republic of Ireland to advise on electricity network development. In addition, Strathclyde is home to the Centre for Energy Policy, led by Professor Karen Turner, which has the remit of challenging and informing policy analysis and decision-making in Scotland and around the globe.

Sir Damon Buffini, Chair of the Royal Anniversary Trust, said: “The Prizes are granted every two years by The Queen and are the most prestigious national honour awarded to UK universities and colleges for their work.

“Entries in the scheme are invited in any subject area and are subjected to rigorous independent assessment in a process managed by the Royal Anniversary Trust. Recommendations for the Queen’s approval are made on the prime minister’s advice.

“The criteria are demanding and look for outstanding excellence in the chosen field, for innovation and for evidence of real public benefit. Competition is strong and the award is a mark of high quality in education and training which is widely recognised internationally as well as in the UK.”

The award follows the announcement of Strathclyde as Scottish University of the Year in the 2020 Sunday Times Good University Guide. Strathclyde has also been shortlisted in the University of the Year category of the 2019 Times Higher Education Awards, the winners of which are to be announced at a ceremony on Thursday 28 November.

Much of Strathclyde’s energy research takes place in the University’s Technology and Innovation Centre, which is sited in the Glasgow City Innovation District. The District is transforming the way academia, business and industry collaborate to bring competitive advantage to Scotland.

The Innovation District model – which is recognised for improving productivity, creating jobs and attracting inward investment in several cities around the globe – brings together researchers and high-growth firms with technology and creative start-ups, to work side-by-side in vibrant, walkable innovation communities.

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