Within the Supergen energy research programme, we work to support our early career researchers (ECRs) to deliver the research we need to reach net zero. The run-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow provided a key point with which to engage our ECRs who come from multidisciplinary backgrounds across the six Supergen Hubs:
Empowering and developing ECRs
By working with the ECR communities within each Hub earlier this year and ahead of COP26, we identified a need to provide skills and development in the communication of science in order to empower our ECRs to demonstrate just how their research is contributing to the fight against the climate crisis.
We committed funding for a multidisciplinary cohort of ECRs to attend two sessions delivered by The Conversation, where they worked together to develop pitches for the media, sharing ideas and collaborating on the best approaches. This resulted in Energy Networks Hub ECR Ali Ehsan (University of Manchester) being published in The Conversation.
Providing a platform for ECR voices
Two months ahead of COP26, we held our own Supergen Net Zero Conference prior to which we convened a cross-Hub multidisciplinary group of Supergen ECRs to design, develop and deliver a three-hour programme for the ECR Forum, which took place at the beginning of the conference.
The most popular session at the conference, the ECR Forum was split into hour-long sessions focusing on the UKRI COP26 priorities of:
- greening the economy and society
- the future of sustainable transport
- securing a global transition to clean energy.
A mix of ‘flash talks’ and panel discussions from a variety of ECRs from different technological backgrounds explored the role of research in delivering net zero and highlighted the willingness of ECRs to go beyond their technological niches. It also demonstrated the desire among ECRs for collaborative, whole-systems research activities that take multidisciplinary approaches to net zero energy research.
Supporting ECRs to continue to deliver net zero energy research
As an output of the discussions, Supergen ECRs have published this paper which explores strategic priorities for net zero energy research and for developing more sustainable research methodologies. It offers the thoughts and opinions of ECRs as to where research and innovation is needed if we are to reach net zero by 2050.
The paper outlines the perspectives of ECRs on the challenge that lies ahead of them, and amplifies their voices in calling for additional support to help them continue to deliver groundbreaking energy research, and to take on a bigger role in the journey to net zero.