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Newcastle from the outside: Carl Ennis

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Newcastle from the outside: Carl Ennis

Carl Ennis, Managing Director of Siemens Energy Management, UK and Ireland, explains why Newcastle University is a Global Principal Partner for the company as it strives to develop clean, affordable energy systems for the future.

Why is the University a Global Principal Partner for Siemens?

Our global partnerships are run from our headquarters in Germany. The team there mapped out our aspiration in terms of our growth portfolio and where we see our future lying, and then chose universities that aligned with that, both technically and culturally. Newcastle was one of 14 universities chosen.

What’s the real-life energy challenge you are tackling together?

Energy is just one of the research areas where we work with the University and it is centred on the recognition that decentralised energy is the way forward.

Our energy system was based around generating large amounts of electricity centrally and then transmitting it to where it was used. You built a power station next to a coal field, you generated electricity and you transmitted it.

If you look at your electricity bill now, 60% is non-generating costs, of which 40% is transferring energy from here to there.

But if the medium you are using to generate electricity is wind or solar, it can be done much more locally, so it’s cleaner and potentially cheaper.

Carl Ennis

How does Siemens benefit from the partnership?

It brings us into contact with people on the absolute cutting edge of systems-thinking and there’s something quite refreshing about working with the PhD students and the way that they challenge us.

The way that they think is different from the way that quite mature commercial organisations think. It brings very different thought processes to a problem and that has been really beneficial.

It brings us into contact with people on the absolute cutting edge of systems-thinking and there’s something quite refreshing about working with the PhD students and the way that they challenge us.

Carl Ennis, Managing Director of Siemens Energy Management, UK and Ireland

Can you tell us about the National Centre for Energy Systems Integration?

We were instrumental in helping the University win the right to host the £20m ESPRC National Centre for Energy Systems Integration (CESI).

It allows us to work with people who might normally be competitors but in a controlled environment.

We work together to share best practice knowledge, and to help progress solutions in local energy systems.

The University is an independent partner that brings people together. That’s important because it provides a level of insulation from the commercial world.

Which other key projects have you worked on with the University?

Another important collaboration is MindSphere, a new cloud-based platform which allows companies to easily carry out big data analysis in order to make their processes more efficient.

We’ve also acted as a strategic partner to the institution in the development of the Newcastle Helix site, where facilities like its Urban Sciences Building and the National Innovation Centre for Data are based.

And we’ve worked with other partners to develop the Integrated Transport Electricity and Gas Research Laboratory (InTEGReL) in Gateshead.

Mindsphere logo

How does the University benefit from working with you?

We help the University determine what the challenges of the future will be because we are already beginning to see them.

We are able to say 'This is where we see the market going' and the University uses that knowledge to help define the skills and competencies its students will need.

But we also help to kit out the labs with, for example, the latest controls for energy systems.

Why does knowledge transfer with the University matter?

At the heart of the whole relationship with Newcastle University is knowledge transfer. So, it’s about either us learning from the students or the students learning from our problems.

Managing big data is one area where our relationships with the University and access to PhD students are beneficial.

Because the market has changed massively over the last few years, some commercial organisations have struggled to change quickly enough.

We’re good at physical engineering and control systems, but how do you manage terabytes of data effectively?

That’s not historically been our skill set but we can gain access to the expertise we need from the University.

Can you give us an example of this in action?

In our MindSphere Application Centre, we have a PhD student working on problems around the ageing of batteries in systems and how they integrate with the system.

The student has been incorporated into the project team and is fundamentally learning from it, while also contributing to the solutions.

In which other areas does Siemens work with the University?

We also work with the University on subjects such as ageing and health, where we are interested in non-invasive technologies such as CT scanning as well as assistive and biomedical technology.

And we work closely in areas including smart manufacturing, transport and the water sector, which require similar expertise as energy in areas such as data collection and analysis, sensors and systems optimisation.

To have people from Newcastle University come in and challenge our very experienced engineers with different ways of looking at a problem – that's very powerful.