Carefully chosen partnerships with energy sector companies allow academics to achieve impact at scale and help the University to fulfil its mission to contribute to society through the pursuit of research at the highest international standards of excellence. We continue to work in the restricted way described below with companies involved in the traditional energy sector where we believe they have a role in accelerating the transition to renewable or decarbonised energy and in scaling-up promising green technology.

We want to be transparent about these partnerships and so on this page we describe:

  1. The due diligence process we apply to funding from the traditional energy sector.
  2. Research funding and philanthropic donations from firms in the traditional energy sector. While the University works with a variety of energy companies, we are disclosing recent engagement with companies that have had major fossil fuel activities, and that have contributed more than £1M in funding over the last three academic years.

Funding approved since October 2020

In October 2020, the University adopted guidelines for decision-making on accepting research funding and donations in relation to its commitment to address climate change through a transition to a zero-carbon world. This enhanced what was already a rigorous due diligence process. Since October 2020, all new funding has been subject to climate-specific due diligence and scrutiny, including funding from the energy sector.

In June 2021, the University created an enhanced set of criteria for energy companies. These include a RED AMBER GREEN (RAG) scale, which is applied to energy firms to determine their alignment with the University’s climate change guidelines, and a written assessment from non-conflicted experts on whether the purpose of the proposed collaboration contributes meaningfully to the energy transition. The RAG categories are summarised as follows:

  • Red: Unsuitable firms because their interests are wholly incompatible with the University’s climate change guidelines.
  • Yellow/Amber: The University will accept funding for research contracts or philanthropic funding from these firms only in some cases (yellow) or by exception (amber) taking into account whether the individual project consists of research which significantly furthers the global energy transition to a sustainable future.
  • Green: Suitable firms because their interests are wholly compatible with the University’s climate change guidelines.

Since the introduction of these new guidelines, the University has only accepted funding from energy companies where it was sure that the resulting collaboration would help the industry and UK and global society move to renewable or decarbonised energy.


Example: sustainably-produced synthetic aviation fuel

University of Cambridge academics are working with Shell on the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to advance gas-to-liquids (GTL) technologies. The research will help better understand the fundamental chemistry and physics of the conversion processes. GTL technology has been used recently by Shell to create sustainably produced synthetic fuel (kerosene) from CO2, water and renewable energy. This has been used to partly fuel an international flight by a passenger jet – a world first.  This pilot project produced a small amount of fuel. However, steps to increase synthetic aviation fuel (SAF) production represent incremental innovation in the sector and are one of a range of technologies being explored to deliver zero-carbon aviation.


Earlier collaborations

In recent years, staff working with traditional energy companies led a strategic shift away from fossil fuel extraction and towards sustainable energy resources and new green technologies, even before the University adopted central guidelines.

Although, historically, there are some legacy oil and gas projects, over time an increasing proportion have focused on developing next-generation power and heating systems and carbon capture and storage. The processes put in place in October 2020 ensure that our academic-led strategic shift is now permanent.

List of funding received from the energy sector

These tables disclose funding from companies that have had major fossil fuel activities and that have contributed more than a cumulative total of £1M over the last three years.

The first table shows research funding by project. While the University primarily conducts fundamental research, the column on the right of the table discloses the expected potential application of the research. 

The second table presents non-prescriptive donations by intended gift destination. Gifts donated for research are used by Cambridge academics to make advances on sustainability goals.

Table 1. Research funding from traditional energy sector firms

 

Award Date

Award band

Project start year

Project end year

Funder Name

Project title

Potential application of the research

24/04/2021

£10K - £49K

2021

2025

BP

Optimisation of EV battery charging 2

Green technologies

24/04/2021

£250K - £499K

2021

2025

BP

Optimisation of EV battery charging 1

Green technologies

25/02/2021

£10K - £49K

2021

2024

Shell

Developing electrolytes in cost-effective batteries for large scale energy storage (redox flow batteries) 2

Green technologies

21/01/2021

£1M - £2.4M

2020

2023

Shell

Developing cost-effective batteries for large scale energy storage (redox flow batteries)

Green technologies

21/12/2020

£10K - £49K

2021

2024

Shell

Developing catholytes in cost-effective batteries for large scale energy storage (redox flow batteries) 1

Green technologies

17/12/2020

£100K - £249K

2020

2024

BP

Improving energy efficiency in heating and ventilating convenience stores

Green technologies

17/12/2020

£100K - £249K

2020

2024

BP

Hydrogen storage in the subsurface for long term energy storage

Green technologies

17/12/2020

£100K - £249K

2020

2024

BP

Understanding the effect of geological strata variations for permanently storing carbon underground

Green technologies

17/12/2020

£100K - £249K

2021

2024

BP

Understanding the effect of geological structure (faults and fractures) variations for permanently storing carbon underground

Green technologies

17/12/2020

£100K - £249K

2020

2024

BP

Comparative modelling of alternative systems to use geothermal energy

Green technologies

04/12/2020

£10K - £49K

2020

2024

Shell

Developing membranes in cost-effective batteries for large scale energy storage (redox flow batteries)

Green technologies

16/11/2020

£100K - £249K

2020

2024

BP

Using chemical methods to remove and recycle heavy metals from waste water

Green technologies

Total award value for 2020-2021: £2.8M

 

 

^ New Process for scrutinising income from energy companies

 

 

07/09/2020

£10K - £49K

 

 

BP

Sustainable and resource efficient design of batteries

Green technologies

21/04/2020

£100K - £249K

2018

2023

Shell

Support for the Centre for Doctoral Training in Data Intensive Science

Green technologies

02/10/2019

£100K - £249K

2019

2028

BP

Contribution to the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Future Infrastructure and Built Environment: Resilience in a Changing World (FIBE2 CDT). BP contributes to the projects:
- District energy system optimisation under uncertainty
- Digitising industrial facilities
- Prioritising interventions in infrastructure design and operations for lower carbon energy assets
- Remote sensing for the monitoring of dynamic behaviour impacting sustainable development

Green technologies

13/08/2019

£10K - £49K

2018 top-up to a project that started in 2016

2021

BP

The effects of additives (such as in drilling fluids) on rock permeability and rock strength

Potential fossil fuel applications

 Total award value for 2019-2020: £0.4M

13/11/2018

£100K - £249K

2018

2021

BP

Studies of anti-wear additives to engine oil

Dual use or transitional technologies (E.g. reducing carbon intensity of fossil fuel applications)

23/10/2018

£100K - £249K

2018

2021

Shell

Developing materials to efficiently separate methane from higher hydrocarbons.

Dual use or transitional technologies (E.g. reducing carbon intensity of fossil fuel applications)

17/09/2018

£500K - £749K

2018

2022

BP

Fundamental studies of the deep Earth, particularly how the crust and the mantle interact

Potential fossil fuel applications

 Total award value for 2018-2019: £0.9M

07/08/2018

£10K - £49K

2017

2021

Shell

Developing molecules to produce new cost-effective batteries (sodium ion batteries)

Green technologies

02/07/2018

£10K - £49K

2017

2021

Shell

Materials studies to produce new cost-effective batteries (sodium ion batteries)

Green technologies

08/02/2018

£10K - £49K

2017

2022

Shell

Novel chemical methods to protect steel surfaces

Dual use or transitional technologies (E.g. reducing carbon intensity of fossil fuel applications)

02/02/2018

£10K - £49K

2017

2021

BP

Improving digital methods to scan buildings, optimising construction and maintenance

Green technologies

01/02/2018

£250K - £499K

2017

2021

BP

Studies of interaction between oil and rock at the molecular scale

Potential fossil fuel applications

12/12/2017

£10K - £49K

2016

2020

BP

Fundamental molecular studies of hydorcarbons

Potential fossil fuel applications

12/12/2017

£10K - £49K

2017

2022

BP

Using advanced imaging techniques to improve chemical processes, especially to produce low carbon fuels.

Green technologies

01/12/2017

£1M - £2.4M

2017

2020

BP

Developing chemical methods to protect infrastructure surfaces in demanding environments, such as offshore windfarms or oil rigs. This would reduce the cost and environmental impact of frequent maintenance

Dual use or transitional technologies (E.g. reducing carbon intensity of fossil fuel applications)

 Total award value for 2017-2018: £1.8M

22/09/2017

£250K - £499K

2017

2019

Shell

Advancing methods to develop new cost-effective batteries (sodium ion batteries)

Green technologies

03/08/2017

£50K - £99K

2017

2020

BP

Using machine learning to understand the physical properties of hydrocarbons to improve lubricants

Dual use or transitional technologies (E.g. reducing carbon intensity of fossil fuel applications)

27/07/2017

£50K - £99K

2017

2021

BP

Investigating chemical mechanisms for enhanced oil recovery

Potential fossil fuel applications

27/07/2017

<£10K

2017

2017

Shell

Using data mining to automate chemical process selection

Dual use or transitional technologies (E.g. reducing carbon intensity of fossil fuel applications)

25/05/2017

£10K - £49K

2016

2020

BP

Sequestration of carbon dioxide in the subsurface

Green technologies

05/04/2017

£500K - £749K

2017

2022

BP

Understanding fuel degradation in combustion engines to reduce emissions

Green technologies

08/11/2016

£1M - £2.4M

2016

2021

Shell

Developing Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) techniques to understand how gases and liquids flow through model porous media and rocks

Dual use or transitional technologies (E.g. reducing carbon intensity of fossil fuel applications)

01/11/2016

£50K - £99K

2016

2020

BP

Understanding how fluids (including oil) interact with and flow over different mineral surfaces

Potential fossil fuel applications

07/09/2016

£50K - £99K

2016

2020

BP

Understanding how different fluids interact at mineral surfaces and how they interact with the mineral surfaces

Potential fossil fuel applications

 Total award value for 2016-2017: £3.3M

* All data is taken at a snapshot in time and will be updated periodically.

* Award date column shows the date the funding is received by the University. The review process and approval of funding took place prior to the award date.

* Table discloses funding data from traditional energy sector firms that have given more than £1M in funding over the last three years.

Table 2. Philanthropic donations from traditional energy sector firms. Non-prescriptive gifts donated for research are used by Cambridge academics to make advances on sustainability goals.

 

Gift Date

Gift Band

Donor Name

Gift destination

17/08/2020

<£10K

BP

Miscellaneous, e.g. student prizes, student support, unrestricted department support, etc

06/11/2019

£5M - £7.4M

Shell

 Support for the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) research

Total donation value for 2019-2020: £6M

03/10/2018 - 08/08/2019

£10K - £49K

BP

Miscellaneous, e.g. student prizes, student support, unrestricted department support, etc

11/04/2019

£1M - £4.9M

BP

 BP Institute Trust Fund: support for a new digital laboratory

26/02/2019

<£10K

Shell

Miscellaneous, e.g. student prizes, student support, unrestricted department support, etc

Total donation value for 2018-2019: £2M

13/03/2018

<£10K

Shell

Miscellaneous, e.g. student prizes, student support, unrestricted department support, etc

24/11/2017

£100K - £249K

BP

Miscellaneous, e.g. student prizes, student support, unrestricted department support, etc

Total donation value for 2017-2018: £0.1M

21/04/2017

<£10K

Shell

Miscellaneous, e.g. student prizes, student support, unrestricted department support, etc

13/12/2016 - 08/03/2017

£100K - £249K

Shell

Support for the Magnetic Resonance Imaging Research Centre (Core Infrastructure)

Total donation value for 2016-2017: £0.2M

 *All data is taken at a snapshot in time and will be updated periodically. 

* Table discloses funding data from traditional energy sector firms that have given more than £1M in funding over the last three years.