Technology leader warns Government over low carbon failings

 A LEADING industrialist has challenged the coalition Government to focus on the ‘grand challenges’ of reducing carbon emissions rather than being blinkered towards product-led funding.

 Geoff Williams heads up a national project aimed at transforming Britain into a global pioneer for printable electronic lighting technology which could greatly improve the nation’s low carbon credentials.

 As head of the UK-wide TOPDRAWER (Thin Organic Prototypes, Design, Research, Applications with End-user Recognition) project, he has overseen the inception of the energy and space-saving technology and its rapid move towards commercialisation.

 The technology will have a carbon neutral footprint when run directly from renewable power sources such as solar panels, wind turbines and emerging battery technologies, and is eminently environmentally-friendly

 Achieving this with any current commercial lighting technology is virtually impossible.

 It makes more efficient use of power generated by wind turbines since it can run directly from DC electricity without the need for it to be converted into AC, which is the case for lighting currently on the market.

 It is also completely recyclable, meaning it could help reduce levels of landfill waste in the future, and produces light which is much closer to the properties of daylight than existing fluorescent technologies.

 However, according to Dr Williams, the UK could miss out on the opportunities presented by the technology, unless the coalition Government takes a more long term approach to its delivery.

 He has urged the Government to use national strategies and funding for businesses to encourage research laboratories and academics to work together to ensure the UK meets its 2020 obligations for energy consumption and CO2 footprint reductions.

 He said: “The Government needs to do things differently and think differently in the way that the aerospace industry manages its grand challenges of development to meet expectations.

 “We would never build an airplane on the off-chance that the integrated technologies will work together in an optimised safe way, so why expect high technology carbon neutral or negative building constructions to emerge in an ad hoc way?

 “If we want to see the exploitation of this emerging technology, we have to start working together. How can we expect to have a building, and the many electronic devices it houses, to become carbon neutral if we don’t encourage businesses that are developing technologies related to renewable energy and energy efficiency to work together towards a final goal.

 “The Government has the opportunity to encourage these ‘grand’ collaborations and to create a strategy that supports them.”

 The work of TOPDRAWER initially started life in 2007 under the banner of TOPLESS, or Thin Organic Polymeric Light Emitting Semi-conducting Surfaces, which was launched £3.3m in public and private funding.

 In July 2010 the research consortium received £4.3m in new funding, 50% of which came from the Government’s Technology Strategy Board.

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