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Students' Net Zero innovations celebrated by alumni-founded Reece Foundation

Engineering students have had their innovative Net Zero solutions recognised in a competition hosted by local charity The Reece Foundation, which was founded by renowned North East engineer, businessman and Newcastle University alumnus Dr Alan Reece in 2007.

8 February 2024

The Reece Foundation is an independent charity which provides grants to help promote engineering and manufacturing, whilst supporting the improvement of education in STEM subjects in the North East. 

Over the past decade, the Reece Foundation has donated more than £1.3m to advance research and support students at Newcastle University. Their generosity has provided essential laboratory equipment for our Centre for Translational Neuroscience, sponsored activities for students interested in a career in the automotive sector and awarded prizes for student innovation. 

Most recently, the Reece Foundation has awarded prizes for student innovation in the challenge of reaching Net Zero and has committed £65k to the redevelopment of the Stephenson Building on campus, an engineering hub for the future.

Celebrating engineering excellence

The Reece Foundation Net Zero competition aims to foster innovation and engage students and supervisors in tackling the Net Zero challenge through their dissertation and thesis projects.

At a recent prize-giving ceremony held on campus, Anne Reece, Chair of the Foundation awarded cash prizes to three students in recognition of their achievements and contribution to Net Zero research. She said:

"It is a pleasure for us to be able to support Newcastle University's student innovation prizes, which aim to enhance STEM education and employment opportunities in the region. Learning from the students about innovative solutions to the Net Zero challenge is always inspiring, and it's great to see how they will have a positive impact on people's lives."

Undergraduate and postgraduate winners received £1,000 and the winning PhD project was awarded a £5,000 cash prize.

Among the winners was Matt Housley, recipient of the BEng prize, who collaborated with North Carolina State University on a project demonstrating a novel approach to catalysis and energy efficiency. Matt's project, which integrates molten salt chemistry and catalysis for CO2 assisted oxidative dehydrogenation, establishes a groundbreaking pathway towards reducing carbon emissions while enhancing energy efficiency. 

On winning the prize, Matt said:

"I felt extremely honoured to be welcomed back to Newcastle to be presented with this prize from The Reece Foundation. It was inspiring to see glimpses of the innovative work that is being undertaken throughout the North East, which is making the goal of Net Zero more tangible than it ever has been." 

Dr Alan Reece: A lifelong connection with Newcastle University

Born in London, Dr Alan Reece first arrived on campus at the then King’s College as a Mechanical Engineering undergraduate in the mid-1940s. He stayed to complete a Master’s in Agricultural Engineering in 1950 before joining the Ford management trainee scheme in Dagenham.

Dr Reece returned to Newcastle University as an academic in 1956, gaining his PhD in 1964, and remained at the University as a lecturer in Agricultural Engineering until 1984.

Towards the end of his career at Newcastle University, Dr Reece began working on a design for a cost-effective deep-sea plough. This was in response to the increase in the number of undersea cables being laid, and the problems caused by deep-sea trawlers. His design allowed cables to be laid much more safely and efficiently.

Dr Reece left Newcastle in 1984 to focus on developing this through his company Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD). Employing graduates from Newcastle University, SMD soon had customers like BT and BP, and by 2000 had an annual turnover of £60m.

Throughout his entrepreneurial success, Dr Reece remained committed to benefitting the North East region and the future of engineering innovation. He established the Reece Foundation in 2007 with the aim of increasing the long-term and sustainable prosperity of the North East of England - primarily through the promotion of engineering and manufacturing.

Since then, the Foundation has supported projects that improve education in engineering and related scientific and mathematical subjects, training in engineering skills, and the development of employment opportunities.

Dr Reece sadly died in 2012, but his legacy lives on through the Reece Foundation and the projects they support. Now chaired by Alan’s daughter, Anne, the Reece Foundation has made an outstanding difference in Newcastle and around the world through its sponsorship of Newcastle University research and students over the past 11 years.

Most recently, the Reece Foundation has awarded prizes for student innovation in the challenge of reaching Net Zero and has committed £65k to the redevelopment of the Stephenson Building on campus, an engineering hub for the future.