News & Views
Swansea Opens Doors on Algae Cultivation
Nov 12 2013 Read 3076 Times
Swansea University recently played host to visitors from industry, academia and the general public who came to find out more about the European EnAlgae project based within the university’s algal biotechnology research facilities. Welcoming visitors to the University’s Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Research (CSAR) on October 15, Vice Chancellor, Professor Richard Davies said: “Part of the work of this project is to engage with the public and other stakeholders to understand the perceptions that are held about algae, and events like this - where we open our doors and welcome you in to show you the work underway, and to listen to your ideas and views - are very valuable to us.
When I first opened the EnAlgae project a few short years ago, I knew very little about Algae. In fact, mention algae and the only thoughts that came to mind were around ponds and weeds. But, as the EnAlgae project has advanced, I too have advanced, and learned far more about algae. And, the potential of Algae in providing solutions to the great strategic challenges of our time – global warming and food and fuel security – is hugely exciting. What is more, we have the climate in which it thrives!
The EnAlgae project itself is a four-year strategic initiative of the INTERREG IVB North West Europe programme. We are very proud that Swansea University is the lead partner in such a vital new area of research, which is transnational in its scope, and engages with an extensive network of 19 partners and 14 observer organisations.
Our ambition is no less than to reduce reliance on fossil fuels by developing algal bio-fuel technology. It is to achieve this by scaling up what can and has been achieved in laboratories, to provide solutions on an industrial scale, and which make a difference to people’s lives.
In 1920, Swansea University was set up by industry for industry. The nature of industry has changed in the 21st century, but our commitment to supporting industrial competitiveness through research and innovation, and delivering employment opportunities and regional prosperity remains as strong as ever.
Algal biotechnology in its broadest context is a new and growing business sector with applications in such diverse areas as second generation biofuels, carbon dioxide capture, wastewater remediation and natural products manufacture (for example, omega-3 oils, pigments, antioxidants).
There is also a global interest in algae-based aviation fuels by aircraft manufacturers and operators, and business opportunities exist across a wide range of sectors, including materials and equipment suppliers (for example, around plastics, corrosion-resistant metals, pumps, sensors); ICT; process engineering; food and feed manufacturers; and health and wellbeing suppliers. I am very pleased that continuing in this vein, a critical thrust of the EnAlgae project is to act as an accelerator for roll-out of the technology and development of the industry. As a research led university, this innovative work will be embedded into the teaching of the new generation of scientists. Swansea University’s Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Research (CSAR) is a centre of excellence founded in 2003 with support from the European Union, Welsh Government, and Swansea University. Equipped with modern, fully programmable re-circulating aquaculture systems, CSAR is designed for applied research on a diverse range of aquatic organisms, from temperate to tropical, and marine to freshwater environments. Education and training activities at CSAR include a vibrant research studentship (PhD) programme, supervision of Undergraduate and Research Masters projects, vocational training for undergraduate and postgraduate students, and tailored training courses for industry and public institution personnel.
The CSAR team also provides information and advice to industry and governments – for example contributing to the the aquaculture section of the Wales Fisheries Strategy (2008) and associated Implementation Plan; setting up the Welsh Aquaculture Producers’ Association (WAPA); and imputing into many microalgal biotechnology strategy documents – this is helping to drive the policy frameworks and organisations that will support the development of algal industries and technologies.
I would like to congratulate Shaun Richardson, EnAlgae’s project manager, and the talented and dedicated multi-disciplinary team at Swansea University that are achieving such exciting things.” Around 40 guests toured the facilities, viewed microalgae under a microscope, saw how a mini
filtration rig works and were invited to play ‘splat the algae’ on a computer modelling station. The event was rounded off with an evening drinks reception.
Naomi Ginnever, EnAlgae Researcher, said: “The research we are doing at Swansea is part of a network of nine pilot facilities across North West Europe, all funded as part of the EnAlgae project. By working together, we can share best practice which will help us make algal-based energy solutions a real possibility for the near future.”
Shaun Richardson, EnAlgae Project Coordinator, said: “Events like this are really important in helping showcase our work to as wide an audience as possible. Projects such as EnAlgae are ultimately aimed at making a real difference to people on the ground across Europe.”
For more information about the project, visit the website>
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