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£10m ENSIGN project aims to develop ‘digital twin’ for industrial clusters

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

A consortium has kicked off a project to develop a digital twin for industrial clusters: The collaborative Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s Prosperity Partnership project, entitled ENSIGN ‘Energy System Digital Twin’, is led by Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN) and includes Heriot-Watt University, University of Strathclyde, the University of St Andrews and the University of Glasgow.

The project will support the UK’s ambition to meet its 2050 net zero emissions target.

Professor John Andresen, Associate Director of RCCS at Heriot-Watt University, who works on several IDRIC projects, will lead the research on the affordable integration of net zero energy vectors, such as hydrogen, for industrial clusters.

Andresen said: “We are bringing business and academia together to co-create and co-deliver research and innovation for affordable and deep decarbonisation within industrial clusters and beyond.  This cutting-edge integration of digital twin and wider AI technologies is key to addressing industry-driven challenges and deliver economic and societal impact for sustainability and prosperity to flourish together.”

Digital twins are virtual representations of physical systems and environments which enable scenarios to be modelled, tested and analysed before applying them in the real world.  They will play a key role in designing and operating future decarbonised energy systems, especially for industrial clusters.

Digital twins’ holistic virtual methodology mirrors IDRIC’s successful whole system approach and co-creation of solutions. IDRIC has been accelerating innovation and research over the past 2 years since its launch, using this whole system approach.

The project will create more than 20 new, highly skilled academic research jobs and PhD positions. It will deliver new knowledge and understanding of future energy systems, and will integrate real-time modelling, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to help introduce and progress the application of digital twins closer to ‘business as usual’.

The project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s Prosperity Partnership Fund, with matched funding from Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN) and contributions from several other organisations.

Partners in the four-year project also include Heriot-Watt University, University of Strathclyde, the University of Glasgow, University of St Andrews, UK Power Networks, D’Arcy Thompson Simulator Centre, National Grid Electricity Transmission, and the National HVDC Centre.

Photo by Ümit Yıldırım on Unsplash

Synthetic biology has ‘vast potential’ across industries

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

The emerging field of synthetic biology will unlock several new realms of innovation, ranging from environmentally friendly luxury materials to novel cancer therapeutics and even using DNA as a new form of data storage. Not only that, synthetic biology potentially provides advanced solutions to global challenges such as food insecurity, climate change, and plastic pollution.

That’s according to GlobalData research, which explains that synthetic biology, commonly abbreviated to synbio, involves changing the genetic material of existing biological systems by copying, cutting, or moving segments of DNA to give them new functions and characteristics.

GlobalData’s latest report, “Synthetic Biology,” highlights numerous industries, including agriculture, consumer, energy, food, healthcare, industrial materials, mining, packaging, and technology, that will be impacted.

Isabel Al-Dhahir, Senior Analyst in the Thematic Intelligence team at GlobalData, said: “The possibilities of synthetic biology are boundless. Pushed forward by the growing demand for sustainable materials, environmental remediation, and innovative therapies, synthetic biology could transform numerous industries. Growing enthusiasm saw venture capital investment into synthetic biology surpass $1 billion in 2023, a more than tenfold increase since 2016.”

Al-Dhahir continued: “Synthetic alternatives to meat, precious metals, natural fibers, fuel, and medicines, among others, continue to be developed. The environmental benefits of such innovations are often the focus, but these developments will also facilitate the next stage of supply chain management.”

Advancements in synthetic biology could enable lean supply chain management, decrease reliance on imports, and further support reshoring efforts. Accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and sustained by the US-China trade wars, supply chain shifts are already visible as countries and corporations try to protect themselves against further disruption.

Al-Dhahir concluded: “Synthetic biology is a very young and promising field with enormous potential. However, the market has struggled to find a firm footing. Mixed public perception towards genetically modified consumer products and unclear regulations poses a significant barrier. Additionally, the field is largely dominated by startups that do not have sufficient capital to scale their production. In healthcare and technology, however, there is increased mobilization in this market by the likes of Janssen, Novartis, and Microsoft.”

Photo by Warren Umoh on Unsplash