John Leake: I think any new technology developments will have to have sustainability at their heart. New technology developments in all areas from computing to healthcare and advanced manufacturing to agriculture won’t be deemed acceptable if they are seen to be utilising too much energy, creating too much waste, and impacting on the world's resources.
In addition, the fight against climate change will undoubtedly create significant innovation needs to develop more sustainable energy sources with lower environmental impacts. I'm sure areas like hydrogen and battery technology will see a lot of activity, but I think it will also create opportunities for the Hartree Centre and the Digital Technology cluster for AI and data analytics to play an important role.
Richard Lock: There is clearly a large and growing demand from consumers for eco-friendly products. Traditionally, this has come with increased cost, which is undesirable to consumers and has led to poor market uptake. In industrial biotechnology, we see reducing costs of production - and, therefore, costs of the final products to consumers - being critical to reaching the mass market and replacing petrochemicals at the same price as the current incumbents.
Paul Vernon: STFC has a very clear objective to strive towards net zero. As the Sustainability Champion on STFC’s Executive Board, it’s important to me that STFC takes an active role in developing the technologies that will help the UK towards net zero, but also that we’re doing this in the most sustainable way possible.
Sustainability pervades all we do across STFC, and we are working on a four-pillar strategy, which includes a sustainability action plan until 2025. Things covered include energy efficiency in large research facilities. For example, the High-Performance Computing Centre is being designed to ensure it meets the sustainable future, by including low carbon concrete in its structure. The roof will also incorporate photovoltaics (converting light into electricity) and the systems going in will accept groundwater cooling. The building will also have the ability to tap-off hot water, which will then go on to heat other buildings.
And we are transforming our car park at Daresbury Laboratory by installing around 3000 solar panels, forming part of an STFC-wide effort to support the mission to achieve net-zero goals by reducing energy consumption on site. Each panel is rated at 395w and the total peak power of the system is greater than 1MW watt of electricity, and each individual panel can be monitored for individual efficiency, points on site. This will generate about 750,000 kWh annually and save in the region of 220 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) every year.