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ViTAL Living Lab

Newcastle University supports RAF’s pathway to Net Zero

Published on: 18 November 2021

Newcastle University will collaborate with the RAF to establish a ViTAL Living Lab at the RAF Leeming base, to support its drive to Net Zero 2040.

The MoD contributes around 50% of all government carbon emissions so the RAF has a significant challenge ahead if it is to decarbonise by its own tougher target of 2040. The ViTAL Living Lab will conduct and assess experiments to quantify RAF efforts to Net Zero.

Having drawn together researchers from across a number of specialist fields, Newcastle University Principal Investigator, Dr Oliver Heidrich, of the School of Engineering, will lead the three-year project from the Newcastle side.

The Living Lab will provide a framework to enable the rapid impact assessment of a wide range of proposed changes in behaviour and emergent decarbonising technologies and innovations. The project will develop and harness full scale experiments, exploring the application of cutting-edge solar technology, carbon sequestration techniques and geothermal, hydrogen and electric as potential energy sources for the RAF Leeming base.

Critically, it will establish a carbon baseline and life cycle assessments at RAF Leeming so that changes made to the estates and infrastructure are understood in a sustainability context and harness the full power of rapid research and technology in the field.    

RAF Leeming Station Commander, Group Captain Blythe Crawford, said: “Project ViTAL provides a terrific opportunity for the MOD to leapfrog to the front of the field in terms of addressing our sustainability and carbon net zero emission challenges.

“Traditionally we have addressed such issues through off-the-shelf solutions, but through collaborating with academia and start-ups, it allows us to get involved at the conceptual stage, leveraging the tremendous research talent the UK provides to work collectively to bring the capability to maturity. This ‘user-centric’ approach will allow us to deliver direct impact to the source of our sustainability challenges rather than trying to fudge a commercial solution to fit, and will ultimately feed our ‘UK Prosperity’ and ‘Global Britain’ agendas, through the development of world-leading, cutting edge capability.”

Professor Brian Walker, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research Strategy & Resources at Newcastle University, added: “As an institution, Newcastle University is committed to supporting the transition to clean, affordable energy and to Net Zero carbon. Much of our research is conducted jointly with our partners in ‘living labs’ and we are particularly excited to be able to draw on this experience and work with the RAF to develop ViTAL to its full potential.”

Professor Stephanie Glendinning, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering, Newcastle University, added: "I am delighted that we are working with the RAF on this living lab. This sort of project - in which we are able to develop our joint learning to the next level by taking research from the bench to full-scale - is exactly what is so special about Newcastle University and it’s outstanding researchers."

Adapted with thanks from RAF Leeming.

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