Powering the future of our new Energy Institute

You might be forgiven for thinking that our new University of Sheffield Energy Institute is only about engineering solutions to the world’s biggest energy challenges. But take a quick look at the people involved and you’ll see that’s not the case. The institute is home to more than 300 of the best minds in energy research from around the world including colleagues from music, management and geography to name but a few disciplines.

Lenny Koh

Mohamed Pourkashanian

The Energy Institute, like all our new flagship institutes, aims for true multidisciplinarity. At the institute’s first internal stakeholder event last month discussions focussed on developing a strategic approach to coordinating energy research right across the University – an approach that colleagues from the institute hope will put Sheffield on the map for energy.

Institute Director, Professor Mohamed Pourkashanian, put it quite simply. He said: “We should be extremely proud of the work we already do in the energy field. If we can better coordinate the world-leading work we already do, this will help us to become an international leader in creating a clean energy future. I sincerely hope we can continue to work with colleagues across the University to make this happen.”

We should be extremely proud of the work we already do in the energy field. If we can better coordinate the world-leading work we already do, this will help us to become an international leader in creating a clean energy future.

Professor Mohamed Pourkashanian

Professor Neil Hyatt, Head of Research and Innovation, sees it as his job to help people make these vital contributions. He said: “My role is to help us to do more things, be more successful and to put Sheffield on the map for energy. To do that I would like to know about all the energy research taking place at the University. I want to better understand what colleagues are doing and, if I can, to help them to be even more successful.”

Amongst the attendees was Dr Robert Marchand, Lecturer in Operations Management. He said: “I’m involved in energy research but I work in the Management School. I think the institute could become a good home for people whose work doesn’t naturally fit in their own department. If it could offer support for research as well as mentoring, I think that would be a real benefit to a lot of academic colleagues.”

Likewise, Dr Matthew Wood, Lecturer from Politics, wanted to find out how contributing would work in practice (he is currently working on a project about pollution). He said: “I’ve attended today to start to get an idea of how in an actual sense I will engage with the institute.”

Professor Dave Stone, Head of Capacity Building, is tasked with developing links between researchers and promoting energy education for the institute. He said: “I’m passionate about helping people develop their careers, especially early career researchers. I want to encourage colleagues to come and talk to me so that we can generate good ideas for the institute together.”

Creating a vibrant inclusive research culture is just one of the strategic questions under discussion at our new Energy Institute as Professor Hyatt explained to attendees: “My call to arms is for us to start a strategic conversation – Is the ambition right? Is the strategic thinking sound? Is the operational structure right? How should the energy institute interface internally on research? How do we create and nurture a vibrant institute? How do we grow the quality, impact and value of research? How do we win an international reputation? Who needs to input into developing the strategy?

“Becoming a research institute is recognition of the existing strength and potential of energy research here at Sheffield. Developing an overarching strategy and a strong external identity will really help us going forward and that’s what I’m here to help with. The structure and organisation of the institute is up for debate – it just needs to enable us to work strategically – and to upscale.

“We’ve got a big ambition and I rely on your support to help achieve it.”

Ideas discussed at the meeting included establishing an internal advisory board for the institute; providing opportunities for collaborative papers and building a glossary to establish a shared language; buying out time for researchers; and starting a blog as a platform to share energy research, expertise and analysis.

Professor Lenny Koh, Head of Communication, Partnership and Internationalisation, gave an update on a number of strategic areas in her remit, including establishing global hubs of energy institutes; enabling the institute to be represented at key policy, governmental, higher education and industry organisations; and developing an energy club.

Colleagues at event

colleagues at event

The visionary team at the Energy Institute is one of the largest energy research teams in Europe, and has built a reputation for world-class research, sought after by governments and industry.

To discuss how you might benefit from working with colleagues at the Energy Institute, email: energyinstitute@sheffield.ac.uk

The University of Sheffield Energy Institute