BP-ICAM: applying materials science to meet tomorrow’s energy challenges

BP-ICAM: applying materials science to meet tomorrow’s energy challenges

A partnership between BP and four universities brings together a superior level of expertise that is driving a step change in scientific understanding.

This case study originally appeared on page 16 of the State of the Relationship 2014. The report outlines the state of university-business collaboration in the UK, featuring expert views and over forty case studies. Read the full report.

The past two decades have seen tremendous advances in materials science and engineering - advances which are being successfully applied across a range of industries. As the challenges of finding and exploiting primary energy resources grow, from conventional hydrocarbons to low-carbon alternatives, the time is right to translate advanced materials technology more effectively into the energy sector. In tune with this effort to deepen knowledge and broaden capabilities in advanced material science and engineering, BP has established the BP International Centre for Advanced Materials (BP-ICAM), committing at least £59.9m ($100m) over 10 years.

The BP-ICAM is experimental in terms of its research ambitions and partnership model. It brings together capabilities from four leading universities, with the University of Manchester acting as the hub and the Universities of Cambridge, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and Imperial College as the spokes. Research programmes will be delivered both individually and collaboratively in order to leverage the extraordinary expertise the BP-ICAM brings together.

The BP-ICAM builds on a prior heritage of university partnerships dating back to the BP Institute for Multiphase Flow at Cambridge, established over a decade ago, and the Energy Biosciences Institute in the US formed in the mid 2000’s. Each was consulted extensively in order to accelerate and simplify establishing the BP-ICAM. Their track record of delivering directly attributable business value greatly aided the ultimate decision to invest in the BP-ICAM.

Established in September 2012, the BP-ICAM has a cohort of more than 50 researchers involved in 14 research programmes across four main topic areas: structural materials, functional materials, separations, and smart coatings. The objective is to drive insight by applying advances in science over the previous two decades in computing, modelling, characterisation and imaging, and synthesis onto materials operating under real world conditions. These insights will underpin the meeting of future technology challenges in the energy sector.

BP-ICAM’s vision is a partnership between BP and selected universities that enables application of advanced materials to energy challenges, with a mission to drive a step change in the understanding of materials impacting safety, reliability and performance across BP operations, enabling improved utilisation of existing, and access to new resources. The aspiration is to establish a benchmark for university-industry partnerships delivered through an integrated, synergistic collaboration serving as a catalyst for deepening and extending the BP-ICAM network. This will be underpinned by the creation of a platform to access, convene and develop leading skills in the advanced materials field primarily for BP, while also extending across the broader energy industry and associated supply chains. 

The delivery of the BP-ICAM is underpinned by a clear set of values:
  • Innovation: Discovering and developing new and more efficient technologies and processes
  • Excellence: High standards of safety and technology management
  • Collaboration: Creating a community of common purpose and mutual trust
  • Capability: Building skills, capacity and infrastructure
  • Impact: Delivering solutions that make a real difference to BP and the wider industry
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