The University of Birmingham, in partnership with Siemens, is to turn its Edgbaston and Dubai campuses into the world’s most sustainable seats of learning.
The joint project is combining digital sensor and analytics technologies, artificial intelligence, decentralised energy generation and storage, and renewable energy concepts creating a ‘Living Lab’ where research, teaching and learning all benefit from access to new data and connectivity.
This will capture data from the university’s building technologies, estates infrastructure and energy plants and use it for innovation, research and development activities, and teaching. Scrutinising energy demand and production – from systems to individual consumers/producers (prosumers) – with live data from across the sites offers an opportunity for applied learning for students and creates a platform for cutting-edge research.
Siemens will sponsor a team of PhD studentships in the UK and Dubai. Their research projects will be designed by Siemens and the university to address challenges in data, technology, urban systems and the net-zero goal.
This year, the university will become the first in the world to introduce Internet of Things (IoT) technology at scale. Starting this autumn, the first phase of this energy-efficiency project will include the roll-out of 23,000 Enlighted IoT sensors across the university’s estate.
Carl Ennis, CEO Siemens, GB & Ireland, said: “Our goal is to apply the university’s strategic vision to their campus. We will uncover where carbon savings are possible by managing resources more efficiently, in a system that is adaptable to changing demand. All of this can be achieved with a combination of connected digital technologies, artificial intelligence, decentralised energy generation and storage, renewable energy and ideas that help change users’ behaviour.”
Siemens will also deliver a 10-year bureau for Energy and IoT services to ensure that the institution gains the full potential of both the technology and industry expertise. The university has already made big progress in making its operations more sustainable by reaching its 2020 target of reducing carbon emissions by 20 per cent and it is now looking to improve the environmental performance of its buildings including a reduction of 2,856 tCO2 annually, equivalent to 5 per cent of its current emissions.
Matthias Rebellius, managing board member of Siemens AG and CEO of Smart Infrastructure, said: “As one of the largest universities in the UK – with a global community of more than 38,000 students – the university is already an energy prosumer and these technologies will be further optimised in the system we are working on.
“Partnerships like this are extremely important for gathering new insights, testing and developing new technologies and creating efficient and sustainable energy infrastructure. The university’s campus in Dubai will be a global example of sustainability at the rescheduled Dubai Expo 2020.”
Professor Tim Jones, the university’s provost and vice-principal, added: “Our goal is to deliver the campus of the future, using cutting-edge technologies to make our campuses in Edgbaston and Dubai the smartest globally. This will enhance our student experience, create research and innovation opportunities, whilst significantly reducing our carbon footprint.
“As we approach COP26 in Glasgow, it is clear we are into the ‘decade of delivery’ for net zero targets. University-industry strategic partnerships… are important for helping to identify pathways for turning targets into reality.”
The university has already signed up to the United Nations Global Compact – the world's largest corporate responsibility initiative – in its pledge to cut its environmental footprint and maximise the impact of its research. It is a participant in the COP26 Universities Network and will be involved in the COP26 conference in Glasgow in November.
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