Chancellor of the Exchequer announces £36 million UK funding for Swansea University clean energy innovation

The Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has announced new £36 million UK Government funding to develop clean energy innovation at Swansea University.

Dr Jenny Baker from Swansea University's College of Engineering, pictured with C‌Dr Jenny Baker from Swansea University's College of Engineering, pictured with Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond and Secretary of State for Wales, Alun Cairns

The new Active Building Centre will seek to remove barriers and accelerate market adoption of new solar-powered building design.

Funded by the UK government through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and UKRI and based in Swansea University, it will be a national centre of excellence working with supply chains from energy and construction supported by ten universities: Swansea, Bath, Newcastle, Birmingham, Loughborough, UCL, Sheffield, Cardiff, Imperial College London and Nottingham.

UK buildings now account for around 40% of our energy consumption and associated carbon emissions, yet the way we create and operate buildings has not changed. They are still consumers of energy, not active and energy positive. Active buildings can save money on energy bills and contribute to a more sustainable world.

The Active Building Centre’s vision is to transform the UK construction and energy sectors, through the deployment of Active buildings powered by the sun, creating energy resilient communities, and significantly contributing to electric vehicle and decarbonisation targets.

The industry and university partners, which represent the best in their fields, bring together a wide range of expertise including engineering, energy systems integration, social science, and systems optimisation. Together, they will work in core areas to create:

  • A critical mass of Active Building demonstrations to showcase technologies and demonstrate scalability.
  • An evidence base for Active Buildings – including research to understand how occupants use and interact with Active Buildings as well as technical performance data. The Active Building Centre will also help develop supply chain capacity and identify skills gaps, which could affect industry acceptance of Active Buildings and inform policy.
  • Technologies and toolkits – for building designers and engineers to support the uptake of new building design.
  • New business models – working with companies to develop models that will accelerate market scale-up and adoption.

The Active Building Centre’s building programme will include its own flagship building, the ‘living lab’, which will be located next to Swansea University’s Bay Campus. A portfolio of 300 further buildings will be developed UK-wide in close collaboration with developers and supply chains, to address different market sector needs.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, said:“Swansea University and the innovative companies working with it are world-leaders in clean energy. The UK Government is backing the industries of the future that will deliver jobs and opportunities across Wales. This £36 million new funding will support exciting green technology that could cut energy bills, reduce carbon emissions and create better homes and workspaces.”

Active office and classroom

L-R Active Office and Active Classroom 

Professor Richard Davies, Vice Chancellor of Swansea University, said: “It’s wonderful that the work of SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre and expertise at Swansea University has been recognised by the UK Government, in choosing Swansea as the location for the national Active Building Centre. It will be located next to our Bay Campus, where recently we opened the Active Office, the UK’s first energy positive office, and where the Active Classroom has now been working successfully for 18 months, generating more than one and a half times the energy it has consumed. The Active Building Centre acknowledges those efforts and takes them to the next level, on a UK platform to deliver national impact.”

Watch: a time-lapse video of the office being built

Professor Dave Worsley, Vice President for Innovation and principal investigator for the centre, explained how the partnership approach was key to success: “The Active Building Centre aims to break down the barriers that prevent mass uptake of solar-powered buildings. I passionately believe that our partnership and collaborative approach is the best way to transform construction and energy. The new centre will bring together our experience with the Active Classroom and Active Office with social, business, policy and energy expertise from universities and companies across the UK. Together we can really make a difference.”

Dr Martin Brunnock, Head of R&D Tata Steel UK said: “Tata Steel is delighted to support the Active Building Centre, we see it as a key component of our strategy to create sustainable construction solutions that revolutionise the way in which buildings are constructed and operated. Our long-term relationship with Swansea University, successful collaboration with Specific and ongoing role with this new flagship national centre enables Tata to showcase its construction technologies and related products from its portfolio along with that of other large, small, medium and micro industrial partners.

“The Active Building Centre is a national vehicle that enables buildings to be constructed and operated in a way that supports the national energy infrastructure, our role in providing coatings and construction systems is a key opportunity that we very proud to support.”

Gareth Davies, Development Director Coastal Housing Group said: “At Coastal Housing Group we welcome the announcement and creation of the Active Building Centre, we are excited to work with the Centre as part of the Transforming Construction Challenge. Active buildings enables our tenants to have better quality homes with lower energy bills which allows a better quality of life.”

Kevin Bygate, CEO of SPECIFIC said: “The Active Building Centre’s role within the Transforming Construction Challenge highlights the significant impact that Active Buildings can make to the UKs energy challenges – this gives us the opportunity to demonstrate the real benefits of Active Buildings and to address the challenges posed for mass adoption. Working collaboratively across energy and construction supply chains the centre will be the convening point for industry and academia supported by government in providing solutions to help solve the significant decarbonisation challenges we face.”

 See more pictures of the Active Office and Active Classroom