Partnership with business and industry is critically important to our research if it is going to have impact in the real world. Many of our students are supported finically through strategic partnerships. For example, EDF who UCL has worked with for the past 7 years, run an annual two-day Postgraduate Researcher Event. Students present their research alongside senior EDF staff who present about EDF’s strategy. The 2016 event was hosted at EDF’s award winning low energy campus, Cannington Court and included presentations from two UCL-Energy PhD students Jonathan Chambers & Melanie Hermann, and LoLo & UCL-Energy PhD student Zack Wang also attended. This gave our students not only an opportunity to meet students from around the UK but also an opportunity to interact with senior EDF staff such as Paul Spence, Director of Strategy and Corporate Affairs, and Xavier Mamo, R&D UK Centre Director.
Jonathan tells us about the event:
The Postgraduate Researcher Event is a two day event hosted by EDF and is attended by all EDF-funded PhD students. The event took place in their recently completed training campus at Cannington Court, an old nunnery renovated with range of interesting technologies including a ground source, solar assisted heat pump. Cannington Court is in the vicinity of Hinkley Point where EDF plan to build a new nuclear power station – and many of the PhD students in attendance were working on nuclear technology.
The first day of presentations included EDF staff – which included Xavier Mamo of EDF R&D UK, Sofiane Benhamadouch and Laurent Billet of EDF R&D France, as well as a presentation from Rebecca Williams of the EPSRC on the structure of funding programs and how to access them. It was clear from these presentations that EDF remains fully committed to its nuclear program, with the aim of capitalising on accumulated experience and skills within the organisation from decades of running the French nuclear park. EDF however clearly recognised the inevitable impact of renewable energy sources, as well as smart grid and demand response technologies, and has expanded it’s investment in these areas with a large new research campus in Saclay, south of Paris. As Laurent Billet of EDF R&D France put it ‘If we don’t do it, someone else will’ – recognising the changing landscape of the energy industry. The second day focused on posters and presentations by EDF PhD students themselves. These covered a surprising number of topics, from studies of the ageing of graphite components in nuclear reactors, modelling of risk in offshore wind farm construction, to the psychology of energy use visualisations for customers at home. The latter talk, by UCL Energy Institute PhD student Melanie Hermann, drew a lot of interest and questions since it introduced a subject and approach to many in attendance with backgrounds in engineering and physical sciences. The event closed Friday on a positive note. It was generally agreed among the postgraduates that there was value in having more contact, enabling both subject-specific support as well as better networking and access to job opportunities.