During Theresa May’s speech on 17 January, the prime minister made it clear that the UK will seek a “full Brexit”, leaving the single market in order to gain control over immigration. There were, however, signals that there would be a willingness to work more closely with the EU in other ways and “to collaborate on major science, research and technology initiatives” This is fantastic news for the renewable energy sector and for those participating in the Horizon 2020 programme, including Minus7
Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020) –. It promises more breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the lab to the market. Fortunately for the UK, Horizon 2020 is not linked to the single market and in her Q&A session in parliament, Mrs May said there may be specific European programmes in which we might want to participate– creating private investment, collaboration and the merging of talent and ideas in ways that mutually benefits the UK and the EU.
Hamish Wilson, CEO of Minus7, was able to see this first hand when he participated in the launch of a Horizon 2020 project called Integridy last week.
This €15 million project pulls together teams from throughout Europe to develop a common approach to managing distributed energy generation and storage. At the heart of the project are ten pilots tests in sites ranging from Cyprus, a Greek Island, Romania, Italy, Spain, Portugal and here in the UK, on the Isle of Wight.
We speak to Hamish about his Horizon 2020 journey so far…
“I attended the kick-off meeting in Barcelona. Attended by some 60 people from all over Europe, it was wonderful to interact with people working in the same field as us (renewable energy) in different parts of Europe and to hear their perspectives on the energy problem. I saw a number of opportunities for Minus7 technology in applications in the French Alps, Lisbon, Barcelona (on a leisure centre – where a gym needs cooling, and the waste heat energy can be utilised to heat their swimming pool – a great fit for Minus7’s integrated technology). It was great to hear the analogy of energy provision on a Greek island and compare that to the Isle of Wight in the UK.
May’s speech drew upon her ongoing ambition for the UK to become a leader in science and innovation. She said that she wanted the UK to “become a magnet for international talent and a home to pioneers and innovators. A truly Global Britain – the best friend and neighbour to our European partners but a country that reaches beyond the borders of Europe too.” To cultivate the future Britain the prime minister envisions, the flow of talent and ideas and collaboration is required to lead the way in delivering innovative new technologies.
Hamish says, “it was such fun to be with and work with people from different nationalities! We made contact with academics in Greece who are working on energy data collection, grid optimisation and management that will be very useful to the work that Minus7 are doing. We will look to incorporate their ideas to develop our technology even further. Being part of this Horizon 2020 project will bring massive value to Minus7 in a variety of different ways. Of course, the required EU administration is an overhead to the project, but the good far outweighs the bureaucratic bad.”
It is worth remembering that Switzerland was knocked out of the Horizon 2020 funding when it voted to restrict freedom of movement in 2014, it only later managed limited access until the Federal Council of Switzerland ratified the protocol on the extension of the free movement of persons late last year, meaning that as of 1 January 2017 until 31 December 2020 Switzerland is fully associated to Horizon 2020. Will the UK choose to do the same? “We would certainly hope so.” says Hamish.
As May noted “June the 23rd was not the moment Britain chose to step back from the world and It remains overwhelmingly and compellingly in Britain’s national interest that the EU should succeed.” For Minus7, the answer is clear – engaging with people from all nationalities to help find solutions will not only ensure the UK’s energy security and alleviate fuel poverty throughout the country but will help its European neighbours as well.