Sheffield University’s new £5.8m Sustainable Fuels Innovation Centre will be the first of its kind in Europe

A new £5.8m centre that will lead research, innovation and commercial testing of sustainable aviation fuels is to be built by the University of Sheffield.

Work has begun on Sheffield University's new £5.8m Sustainable Fuels Innovation Centre.

The Sustainable Aviation Fuels Innovation Centre (SAF-IC), part of the university’s Energy Institute, will provide facilities to test, certify and deploy new sustainable aviation fuels.

Jointly funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the University of Sheffield, the centre will be located at the University of Sheffield Innovation District and will act as a ‘clearing house’ with facilities to test, validate and certify new fuels. SAF-IC will be the first centre in Europe to be able to capture CO₂, produce green hydrogen, convert them into sustainable aviation fuels and analyse their performance all in one single location.

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A clearing house is seen as the missing link to help producers of sustainable aviation fuels bring their products to market. Having such a centre in the UK is expected to accelerate regulatory approvals of new fuels and give the UK certification capabilities.

SAF-IC will be a development hub for the research and scaling-up of sustainable aviation fuels, offering laboratory and testing space as well as coordination and networking facilities.

The facility will work in combination with the neighbouring Translational Energy Research Centre - a national pilot-scale testing facility that is also part of the University of Sheffield - to support state-of-the-art research and provide much needed testing capabilities to help ready sustainable aviation fuels for commercial use.

The Sustainable Aviation Fuels Innovation Centre will heavily invest in supporting SMEs in South Yorkshire as well as work with partners from the aviation industry locally, nationally and internationally.

SAF-IC will help to establish South Yorkshire as the leading R&D centre of excellence in sustainable aviation fuels. The facility will provide employment opportunities, attract investment and work with the wider region to support innovation and growth in the area.

Prof Mohamed Pourkashanian, director of the Energy Institute and managing director for the Sustainable Aviation Fuels Innovation Centre, said: “We are extremely excited to be establishing this state-of-the-art innovation centre in the heart of the University of Sheffield Innovation District. SAF-IC will help the UK to determine the best pathways to net zero aviation, and play a crucial role nationally and internationally in delivering truly sustainable flight.

“One of the most unique and critical aspects of SAF-IC is that the centre will be the first of its kind to research fuels which are made without any fossil fuels in the process, including improving understanding of how we can use bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) to make a negative emissions fuel.”

He added: “SAF-IC will enable businesses and academics to drive forward their research and technology at a swift pace thanks to its technical and clearing house abilities, allowing the nation to work in line with the targets set by the Department for Transport for net zero emissions from aviation by 2050.”

Work has already begun on the centre, which is anticipated to be fully operational by July 2022.

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James Mitchinson