Industrial past and renewables future – European Committee of the Regions study tour to Swansea

Representatives from across Europe descended on Swansea last week (Tuesday, April 29) for a day-long study tour of the region, focusing on its industrial past and its current status as a front runner in developing renewable energy technologies.

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The theme for the visit by members of the European Committee of the Regions (the European Union's assembly of regional and local representatives) was low carbon, energy and the environment and finding sustainable solutions for environmental and resource management through innovative research.

The event was hosted by the EnAlgae project based within Swansea University’s College of Science, a £12 million project funded by the European Union via the INTERREG IVB NWE programme.

The project is developing algal bioenergy technologies, and the visit allowed committee members the opportunity to see progress on the project and also view other studies being undertaken on the campus.

Dr Shaun Richardson, project manager for EnAlgae, said: “We were delighted to welcome the Committee of the Regions to Swansea to demonstrate how the University is the forefront of research and innovation into matters of renewable energy and food and fuel security.”

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Delegates who made the journey were introduced through the EnAlgae project to the process of growing algae and tapping its potential as an energy source and means of remediating waste water and gases, including industrial CO² emissions. They were also treated to a showcase of other projects currently being undertaken at the University.

These included SEACAMS project, otherwise known as the Sustainable Expansion of the Applied Coastal Marine Sectors in Wales. This is a strategic development project aiming to integrate research and business opportunities around the coast of Wales.

LCRI Marine, or Low Carbon Research Institute Marine Consortium, was also represented.  This is a collaboration of all the leading academic marine institutions in Wales and aims to enable, support and help build a sustainable marine energy sector in Wales. 

And members of the SPECIFIC project were also on-hand to discuss their progress in developing functional coated steel and glass products for roofs and walls that generate, store and release renewable energy.

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Councillor Linda Gillham, who acted as the CoR sponsor for the visit, was delighted with the success of the visit. She said: “Members of the Environment Commission of the Committee of the Regions agreed that this was one of the best study tours. We were able to see projects developing on renewable energy, biodiversity, regeneration and conservation, mitigation and innovation which covers almost all areas of our work.

“Not only did we see these practical examples but we also saw how several different EU funding streams are being used in innovative ways to find solutions to the problems the environment faces now and the foreseeable difficulties of climate change.

“Each member took away an idea to share or implement in their local region and the feeling that the day had been very informative and inspiring.

“The ENVE Commission members extend their thanks to Dr Shaun Richardson and the EnAlgae project team for their excellent programme that included so much in such an enjoyable day.”

Politicians, businesses, academics and community representatives then congregated for an evening drinks reception at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea.

In a speech to welcome the delegation, Welsh Labour MEP Derek Vaughan highlighted the value of Wales’ partnership with the EU, saying: “I’m pleased to see EU funds supporting innovation and increased collaboration between universities and private enterprise.

“Swansea has benefitted from significant EU support over the past few years, including £60m from the European Investment Bank for the University’s new Bay Campus.

“I have lobbied hard to ensure Wales receives a fair allocation of funding under the new EU budget. This will mean more support for pioneering projects like the ones on show today.”


1 - From left to right: Derek Vaughan MEP, Shaun Richardson and Robin Shields (EnAlgae project, Swansea University), Councillor Linda Gillham (Committee of the Regions), Prof Ian Cluckie (Swansea University Pro-Vice-Chancellor), Nick Wood-Dow (Chelgate Ltd).

2 - Alla Silkina of Swansea University demonstrates the EnAlgae project algal cultivation facilities during the Committee of the Regions Study Tour to Swansea University.

3 - Members of the Committee of the Regions on their recent Study Tour to Swansea University.