Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Bioenergy

This research area covers the thermochemical conversion of biomass to energy vectors – for example, heat, electricity and liquid fuels.

Partners involved:
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The scope and what we're doing

This research area focuses on the thermochemical conversion of biomass to energy vectors – for example, heat, electricity and liquid fuels. It includes combustion, pyrolysis, gasification systems and the engineering integration of biomass conversion technologies into a sustainable system. It excludes the study of fluid dynamics and the study of bioelectrical engineering.

Research focusing on utilisation of biomass to solely produce chemicals is also excluded, while the production of chemicals as a by-product of biorefinery process for energy generation is acceptable.

Through outreach and critical mass investments in research and training, emphasis will be on prioritising and coordinating complementary research projects with the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to support topics between the interfaces and accelerate research into real-world applications.

Our aim is for this portfolio to align with other UKRI partners and organisations, including the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to provide a whole-systems approach to decarbonisation.

Academics and industrialists will be consulted to consider economic, social and environmental factors, as well as integration within the wider energy system. Social and environmental factors include cost, efficiency, health and resource management.

A review of available skills and knowledge, infrastructure and large investments in industry and academia will help ensure that resources are allocated strategically and efficiently. It is key to maintain the balance of critical mass investments and community-led research, while continuing to provide postdoctoral and early career support.

Recent reports have shown there is a requirement for sustainable bioenergy with carbon capture and storage to meet net zero emissions. Focus on thermochemical conversion of biomass and waste to energy vectors, including heat, electricity and liquid fuels (particularly drop-in fuels for transport), will be encouraged. Links between this research area, and the Carbon Capture and Storage research area should be fostered to ensure they can be integrated efficiently.

Researchers already collaborate strongly with countries in Europe, Africa and Asia. To maximise UK influence and impact, the community is expected to continue fostering such opportunities.

This research area is also of potential relevance to the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office’s Official Development Assistance funding streams.

Why we're doing it

Bioenergy is a developing area considered to be a major potential contributor to a resilient, productive UK energy system.

It features in a number of official reports and roadmaps which feed into strategies on the future of UK energy as part of a flexible, sustainable, cost-effective and renewable system. Its use is of national importance if the UK is to achieve its 2050 environmental and climate change targets.

We recognise that this is an interdisciplinary research area where the breadth of topics spans several research councils’ remits. It demonstrates links to other research areas in our portfolio, including:

It has clear relevance to topics within the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The Supergen Bioenergy Hub is able to draw the relevant skills and stakeholders together to provide a whole-systems approach to addressing UK bioenergy challenges.

As the UK moves away from reliance on fossil fuels and takes steps towards achieving environmental targets, bioenergy as a resource for power and heat generation, drop-in fuels in transport and bioremediation becomes increasingly attractive. The quality of skills, the transfer of knowledge and the level of UK investment in bioenergy are reflected in strong links with industrial organisations. These industrial organisations have contracts in place to allow for feedstock pilot testing and feedback research challenges that require addressing at higher technology readiness levels.

In view of the limited resources in the UK for bioenergy in terms of soil type, land surface area and climate, the community has increased collaboration with relevant bioenergy stakeholders outside the UK. The amount of funding leveraged from non-UK sources demonstrates the strength and quality of UK research.

View evidence sources used to inform our research strategies.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships. Find out more about research area connections and funding for Bioenergy.

Find previously funded projects on Grants on the Web.

Who to contact

Last updated: 27 July 2023

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