By Dr Mark Bacon, Director of Research, Innovation and Engagement at Keele University

On one of the hottest days of the year, the future of your heating and energy supply is probably one of the last things on your mind. Not, however, at Keele University.

On 26 June 2018, the University, along with a range of local, national and international partners, marked the official start of work on our landmark Smart Energy Network Demonstrator (SEND)* project.

The first of its kind in Europe, the project will see our campus, the largest in the UK, transformed into an at-scale living laboratory that will facilitate the research, development and demonstration of new smart energy technologies and services, all in partnership with local businesses and national industry leaders.

The project will create a decentralised energy system, providing us with the infrastructure to monitor and manage energy across the campus. Using smart technologies, we will be able to accurately analyse our energy consumption and investigate how the interplay between contributory factors affects that use.

The ‘living lab’ will give evidence to the energy research and business community, along with local SMEs in the energy and associated sectors, all of whom will have access to the University’s unique infrastructure in order to develop and test their renewable and smart technologies.

As well as supporting local businesses, we will also be working with industry giant Siemens to digitalise 24 of our substations, install 1,500 smart meters, and integrate 5MW of renewable energy.

By focussing on areas of research such as energy efficiency, cost savings, security of supply and lowering CO2 emissions, the project enables us to continue building on our long-term commitment and investment into sustainability.

The impact of this project is truly significant. With forecasts predicting that more than 70% of the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas by 2050, projects such as SEND can influence how such urbanisation is managed, providing real data on the impact of innovative technologies as well as supporting the development of such advances.

Being the home to Europe’s largest smart energy network demonstrator is a thrilling prospect, both academically and environmentally, and we look forward to updating you on its progress over the next few years.


Published: 20 July 2018


Image (L-R): Carl Ennis (Siemens); David Frost CBE (Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership); Trevor McMillan (Keele University); Andrea Whitworth (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy); Philip Atkins OBE (Staffordshire County Council)

SEND Logos stacked 300px*The SEND project (ref: 32R16P00706) is receiving up to £9m of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020, and £4.5m from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund.

Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information, visit