UKRI’s recommendations as a result of our Mid-term review report.
The Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS) is UKRI’s research hub and largest investment in the field of energy demand research. It has funding of £19.5M, including a £2.7M flexible fund, over the period April 2018 to March 2023. The research programme is organised around six themes and three challenges.
As part of its oversight of CREDS, UKRI established a panel to undertake a Mid-Term Review of the work undertaken up to September 2020. The review panel reported in March 2021, assessing CREDS against criteria of research quality; breadth of activity; integration with other research; acting as a focal point; impact; equality, diversity and inclusion; and capacity building. The panel assessed CREDS performance as 4 out 6 on integration and acting as a focal point, and 5 out of 6 on the other criteria. It made a number of recommendations and asked for an action plan on some key issues.
CREDS values the opportunity to respond to the panel’s suggestions. Without exception they raise important and useful challenges. We have consulted our Advisory Board and UKRI in developing a response. This paper provides our response to the panel’s recommendations and an action plan.
We accept the key recommendations of the panel: to clarify the Centre’s aim; to review systematically our research quality; to revise and update our stakeholder engagement plans; to initiate new work that integrates research and insights from across the Centre; to further strengthen our work on equality, diversity and inclusion; and to work with UKRI to review the relevant research landscape.
In our detailed responses, we pay attention to the tensions in how we use our resources, as doing more in one area inevitably implies less in another area. The panel report asks us to consider several areas where resources might be increased, and therefore our detailed responses focus on priorities. These include our responsibilities to CREDS staff, who have developed a positive working culture, and maintained this under the difficult circumstances of the pandemic.
Specific actions are listed below:
- Recommendation: Include a cross-cutting challenge-led work package that develops integration across the entire programme.
- Action: Use the remaining Flexible Fund for cross-cutting work on learnings from the pandemic for the challenge of net-zero | Nick Eyre | July 2021
- Recommendation: Consider energy demand interactions between sectors – for example, heat and transport.
- Action: Ensure CREDS Final Project includes interactions between heating and transport electrification | Nick Eyre | July 2021
- Recommendation: Ensure that the risks associated with the approach of appointing ECRs in more senior positions are effectively managed
- Action: Include risks associated with ECR project leadership in the next revision of the Risk Register | Clare Downing | July 2021
- Recommendation: Shift engagement with stakeholders to more solutions-focused discussions and recommendations
- Action: Develop and undertake ‘spotlight’ campaigns | Sarah Higginson, Clare Downing, Nick Eyre | July 2021 to March 2023
- Recommendation: Consider the aims and research programme of the Centre, whether they still align and are reflective of the future evidence needs
- Action: Change CREDS aim to: “to understand the role of energy demand change in accelerating the transition to a zero-carbon energy system, including the technical, social and governance challenges of demand reduction, flexible demand and use of decarbonised energy” | Nick Eyre | August 2021
- Recommendation: Include a cross-cutting challenge-led work package that develops integration across the entire programme
- Action: Ensure high impact for the cross-cutting project on Low Energy Demand Scenarios | John Barrett, Nick Eyre | September 2021
- Recommendation: Evaluate current stakeholder network identifying where there are gaps
- Action: Review stakeholder networks for business, local authorities and international research | Aimee Eeles, Kay Jenkinson, Sarah Higginson | October 2021
- Recommendation: Investigate how lessons can be learned via international engagement and how these might be applicable and implemented in the UK
- Action: Review and revise international engagement strategy | Sarah Higginson, Jacopo Torriti, Nick Eyre | October 2021
- Recommendation: Develop a broader and more meaningful engagement strategy across the whole system both in the UK and internationally
- Action: Revise Communications and Engagement Strategy and Plan (CES Plan) | Clare Downing, Nick Eyre | November 2021
- Recommendation: Identify fast-track routes for implementation of solutions so there are no missed opportunities
- Action: As part of CES Plan review, retain some uncommitted time for the Core Team and Theme leaders that can be used for ‘rapid response’, including requests for media input | Clare Downing | November 2021
- Recommendation: Ensure EDI is championed and integrated within all research themes
- Action: ‘Spotlight’ campaign on EDI | Clare Downing, Anuja Saunders | November 2021
- Recommendation: Develop a set of benchmarks/performance criteria that can be used to define world-class research and identify what themes are going to need assistance to achieve this by the end of the project
- Action: Review research quality through individual meetings of theme leaders with the Director | Nick Eyre, Theme leads | December 2021
- Recommendation: Undertake a gap analysis of CREDS, clarify what is ‘in’ and ‘out’ of scope for the Centre, and identify where improvements can be made, particularly in areas such as finance, transport, behavioural economics, and societal issues
- Action: Support UKRI to review the energy demand research landscape and priorities | Nick Eyre | January 2022
- Recommendation: Ensure EDI is championed and integrated within all research themes
- Action: Appoint researcher to scope the research agenda on racial equality and energy demand | Nick Eyre, Sarah Higginson, Anuja Saunders | February 2022
- Recommendation: Revisit the EDI Plan to include measures of success and have greater emphasis on actions
- Action: Review EDI plan | Nick Eyre, Anuja Saunders | March 2022
- Recommendation: Reflect on the role CREDS has in delivering Responsible Research and Innovation and promote good practices and case studies where appropriate
- Action: Review research programme against the principles of Responsible Research an Innovation | Nick Eyre | March 2022
- Recommendation: Develop and implement a Succession Planning strategy to ensure researchers are supported and developed in all stages of their careers
- Action: Continue to support CREDS researchers through mentoring, training and development opportunities | Nick Eyre, Theme leads, Clare Downing, Sarah Higginson | March 2023
- Recommendation: Influence institutional cultures where these inhibit more effective working practices and limit the career opportunities for interdisciplinary early and mid-career researchers
- Action: Continue to advocate for change to support inter- disciplinary research within our institutions | Nick Eyre, Theme leads | March 2023
The Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS) is UKRI’s research hub and largest investment in the field of energy demand research. It has funding of £19.5M, including a £2.7M flexible fund, over the period April 2018 to March 2023. The research programme is organised around six themes (Buildings, Transport and Mobility, Materials and Products, Flexibility, Digital Society, and Policy and Governance) and three challenges (Decarbonisation of Heat, Fuel and Transport Poverty and Decarbonisation of Steel).
As part of its oversight of CREDS, UKRI established a panel to undertake a Mid-Term Review of the work undertaken up to September 2020. The review panel reported in March 2021, assessing CREDS against criteria of research quality; breadth of activity; integration with other research; acting as a focal point; impact; equality diversity and inclusion; and capacity building. The panel assessed performance as 4 out 6 on integration and acting as a focal point, and 5 out of 6 on the other criteria. It made a number of recommendations and asked for an action plan on some key issues.
We are delighted that the comments about CREDS from the panel are positive and constructive. We are grateful for their broad support for the quality of our research and its impact. At the same time, we recognise that the panel has raised a number of issues and made constructive and helpful suggestions. We have taken time to consider these working with our Advisory Board and UKRI and intend to use the opportunity to improve the effectiveness of CREDS in its final two years. We therefore welcome the opportunity to respond to the comments from the panel and to develop an Action Plan.
In some cases, we were already considering the issues raised by the panel. In other cases, the issues raised are new to us: these are very helpful in challenging us to re-think our approach and improve our work.
In addressing the comments, we have put a major emphasis on prioritisation. There are a number of tensions in how we use our overall resources, e.g. between research and delivering impact, between planned and responsive activity research, between addressing national and international audiences, and between engagement with decision-makers and more diffuse audiences. Doing more in one area inevitably implies less in another area. The panel report asks us to consider several areas where resources might be increased. We interpret this as a challenge to us to reassess our priorities, and therefore our responses largely relate to these, rather than the intrinsic merits of the ideas suggested.
We are also mindful of our responsibilities to CREDS staff. We have built a positive working culture that is collaborative, productive and focused. Over the period since March 2020, our staff have worked through difficult circumstances to ‘keep the show on the road’. Maintaining a positive working culture, encouraging initiative and managing pressures to over-work will remain a high priority for us in managing the Centre, especially with respect to staff who have been most affected by the pandemic through illness and caring responsibilities.
Action plan and recommendations
In each section we reproduce the Mid-Term Review Panel’s recommendations verbatim. We follow each recommendation with our response, and where appropriate our intended action(s). We identify the responsible people within CREDS to lead delivery and the proposed timescales. The actions are summarised in the table on Pages 2-3 above.
We will address comments under ‘Stakeholder engagement’ and ‘Impact’ primarily through revising the existing Communications and Engagement Strategy and Plan (CES Plan).
Panel recommendation: Develop a broader and more meaningful engagement strategy across the whole system both in the UK and internationally. This should enable CREDS to evaluate their current stakeholder network identifying where there are gaps.
The aim of our stakeholder engagement activities is to help us identify important research questions and communicate ongoing work and results effectively. We have developed stakeholder networks over the lifetime of the Centre. To inform a review of the CES Plan, CREDS knowledge exchange managers will work with the research themes to review our stakeholder networks, including in business (AE), local authorities (KJ) and the international energy demand research community (SH). Through this process we will expand our networks, and therefore the scope of our interactions, and identify any critical gaps.
- Action: Review our stakeholder networks for business, local authorities and international research. Responsibility: Aimee Eeles, Kay Jenkinson, Sarah Higginson | October 2021
The CES Plan sets annual stakeholder engagement goals for each research theme and knowledge exchange manager. We have delayed its revision to await the Mid-Term Review and now propose to action this revision to address the issues raised by the Review, as well as other changes (notably the impacts of the pandemic) and stakeholder feedback. The CES Plan identify our proposed key impacts in the remaining 21 months of CREDS and effective routes to engagement with different categories of stakeholder.
- Action: Revise Communications and Engagement Strategy and Plan. Responsibility: Clare Downing, Nick Eyre | November 2021
Panel recommendation: Include plans for engaging with non-receptive stakeholders as well as receptive stakeholders as resources allow.
We have considered the recommendation concerning non-receptive stakeholders. In practice, there is a spectrum of levels of interest, ranging from highly engaged to uninterested. We propose to continue to produce relevant material for a range of audiences. These can have important indirect impacts on currently uninterested stakeholders. For example, dissemination of our findings through the media and other intermediaries can reach audiences who would not proactively seek our outputs.
In addressing the case for engagement with non-receptive stakeholders, we draw a distinction between, on the one hand, those with the power to affect use of our research results and, on the other, mass audiences with limited interest and agency.
In the former case, for example those UK Government departments still resistant to the case for stronger action on energy demand, making progress will be important and difficult. We propose to work with others including key agencies, NGOs and proactive businesses to maximise the impact of our research. This work will form part of our revised CES Plan.
In the latter case, we base our approach on the experience of colleagues in the consortium with professional experience in mass audience engagement and energy advice over the last 30 years. We have concluded that the costs of effective national engagement programmes of the type abandoned by UK Government in 2011 would be tens of millions of £ annually. The resources available to CREDS for stakeholder engagement are therefore orders of magnitude too small to be effective and engagement of these stakeholders would be a poor use of the resources of a research programme.
We therefore propose to adopt a strategy focused on engaged stakeholders, many of whom already value our input, and important non-receptive stakeholders. This will be implemented through the CES Plan review and other activities described under ‘Impact’ below.
Panel recommendation: Enable CREDS to critically investigate how lessons can be learned via international engagement and how these might be applicable and subsequently implemented in the UK.
The flexibility of CREDS funding has facilitated UK engagement and leadership in major international programmes, projects and events. For example it has enabled staff to work collaboratively to review the impact of energy efficiency globally, to make a substantial input to new work on demand side solutions in the IPCC, to engage with the Mission Innovation heat challenge, to lead work in an IEA Technology Cooperation Programme, and to participate in the Lancet Countdown, which annually engages 1 billion people through its work on tracking the impact of climate change on health. This work is, of course, not branded as CREDS or UKRI, but it has allowed us engage very widely, with a high level of impact.
Most of our academic publication is in international journals and secures international attention. We have published international comparative work, for example on smart metering roll out. Within the Low Energy Demand scenarios integration project, we will engage the international modelling community on our findings.
We have developed our international profile substantially since the Mid-term review report, with a very large presence, including 11 presentations at the major European energy efficiency conference, eceee. We have extensive international engagement at the level of individual themes and projects. We have had some international visitors, although some plans have been severely impacted by travel restrictions during the pandemic. As a response, we developed a webinar programme, which has had an international audience.
Given the changed circumstances for international travel and engagement, we agree that a strategic review of our international engagement is needed. We will review our international collaborator and stakeholder networks, including outside the EU. We will consider a range of approaches, including collaborations, online events and speaking opportunities. We will identify opportunities for engagement that can contribute across the consortium. We will then set new goals and priorities, which will feed into our CES Plan revision.
- Action: Review and revise international engagement strategy. Responsibility: Sarah Higginson, Jacopo Torriti, Nick Eyre | October 2021
Panel recommendation: Develop a solutions-focused impact strategy to ensure the Centre maximises its potential for impact. This should shift engagement with stakeholders to more solutions-focused discussions and recommendations.
As the name of CREDS implies, we have always sought to focus our research on ‘solutions’, i.e. issues with practical implications for changes to energy demand. However, we are not a delivery body and therefore can only secure change through evidence and persuasion. To be effective, this requires us to work with stakeholders who can implement solutions.
Our approach in the existing CES Plan reflects this. Our early stakeholder engagement largely focussed on use of pre-CREDS research results and developing plans for CREDS research. As our research results come through, we are moving more strongly towards messages around outputs from CREDS research. We will reflect this in the revised CES Plan.
Direct and early engagement with key stakeholders is often the most effective route to impact. Consortium members have advisory roles with BEIS, DfT, Defra, Scottish Government and Ofgem. We have worked directly with the CCC and LGA at their request. We make submissions to Parliamentary Select Committees where we can add value, and have made more than 20 written submissions to date, as well as providing oral evidence when requested. Our Advisory Board contains a diverse range of people involved in decision-making.
Our research priorities and design emphasise questions that are important to stakeholders. In many cases, project design has been undertaken through a process of co-creation that maximises the chances of outputs having impact.
We will develop and undertake focused ‘spotlight’ campaigns around specific issues of interest to key stakeholders, including on Covid-19 impacts and the central role of the demand side in delivering net zero.
- Action: Develop and undertake ‘spotlight’ campaigns. Responsibility: Sarah Higginson, Clare Downing, Nick Eyre | June 2021 to March 2023.
Panel recommendation: identify fast-track routes for implementation of solutions so there are no missed opportunities.
We already have successful experience of fast-tracking impact, for example in responding to BEIS requests on heating strategy and retrofit programmes, pre-publication input to the DfT’s Road to Zero strategy and work for Defra that informed the UK’s legally binding target for resource productivity. We also make direct contributions to the media through prompt responses to requests.
We recognise that forward planning cannot anticipate all opportunities. Indeed, some of the best opportunities to engage effectively arise fortuitously and rapidly. Our strategy for taking advantage of this is twofold. First, we need to continue to build strong networks, so we can reach key decision makers and influencers, directly and quickly. Secondly, we need to continue to allocate some resource to ‘rapid response’ activities.
- Action: As part of CES Plan review, retain some uncommitted time for the Core Team and Theme leaders that can be used for ‘rapid response’, including requests for media input | Responsibility: Clare Downing | November 2021
Panel recommendation: Undertake a gap analysis of CREDS, clarify what is ‘in’ and ‘out’ of scope for the Centre, and identify where improvements can be made, particularly in areas such as finance, transport, behavioural economics, and societal issues.
Our overall scope was specified by the call under which the Centre was commissioned. We define ‘energy demand’ to include ‘any of the drivers of demand for energy services, the efficiency of delivery of those services, the temporal or spatial patterns of energy use and/or the fuels used, as well as the technical, behavioural, social, economic and/or policy issues associated with energy demand’. We remain comfortable with this definition, as it reflects the breadth of scope expected of a hub investment. It has allowed us to bring in new challenges (steel decarbonisation and fuel and transport poverty), as well as a diverse set of ECR-led projects. It enables CREDS to address the interactions between energy demand and broader issues with which energy demand interacts, e.g. infrastructure and social change. Prioritisation within this broad scope is more challenging and we address this under ‘Integration’ below.
In our function as the hub for energy demand research, we recognise we have a role in keeping under review UK energy demand research more broadly, which includes identifying gaps in the CREDS and broader UKRI funding landscape. We agree it would be useful to support UKRI to review the energy demand research landscape and priorities in advance of commissioning energy demand research for the period after March 2023.
- Action: support UKRI to review the energy demand research landscape and priorities. Responsibility: Nick Eyre | January 2022
Panel recommendation: There is also a need to review CREDS role in exploring any negative consequences of demand reduction for society.
We are clear that our remit includes negative consequences of energy demand change and its policy drivers. We included the broad topic of ‘co-benefits’ (positive and negative) in our Challenges Call competition, although no projects in this category were funded. However, we include both positive and negative ‘co-benefits’ in our research. We do this through taking a whole systems approach, in which the complex interactions across the system are assessed.
In many cases, the speed and scale of demand changes are limited by their negative consequences, actual or perceived. These issues are central to our work. For example, our Buildings theme has a co-benefits sub-theme that includes understanding unintended consequences. Our research has already addressed some important negative consequences, e.g. the impact of building air-tightness on indoor air quality and consequences of rebound effects. We are therefore confident we are already addressing this recommendation.
Panel recommendation: develop a strategy for the integration of themes and areas. This should consider all the dimensions of energy demand reduction and enable CREDS to justify why they are not involved in some areas and identify gaps or weaknesses where more could be achieved through CREDS.
The breadth of the CREDS remit set out above means that we have had to set priorities. For that reason, there are significant gaps in our research programme with respect to the whole scope. Our initial priorities, set out in our proposal in 2017, were based on consultation and an assessment of the impact that CREDS research might have. They focussed our research on areas of high energy use and potential for change (e.g. heating rather than cooking) and areas where there is less industrially funded research (e.g. vehicle use rather than vehicle design; and resource efficiency rather than process efficiency). We have kept these under review and believe the original choices still broadly represent the best use of resources.
The Flexible Fund has provided scope for extending the areas of our research. Our strategy has been to maximise the impact of new work commissioned through the Flexible Fund. In practice, the implications for energy demand research of the pandemic and net zero targets have been sufficiently profound for these to be the main areas in which the Flexible Fund has been used.
Panel recommendation: Include a cross-cutting challenge-led work package that develops integration across the entire programme.
Cross-thematic work has been included in our work programme from the outset. In our proposal we committed that “Within the first 6 months of the Centre, we will jointly undertake an assessment of the role of energy demand in delivering the objectives of the UK Government’s Clean Growth Plan” and “In years 4 and 5 of the programme we will bring together results from the sectors to address the costs and benefits of significant demand side change, how these might be distributed and the implications for innovation and policy.”
We welcome the recognition by the panel that our initial ‘Shifting the Focus’ project was successful and their support for a continued emphasis on integration. We have also almost completed a cross-theme project on quantified ‘Low Energy Demand Scenarios’ for the UK, and expect that this will also have significant impact.
- Action: Ensure high impact for the cross-cutting project on Low Energy Demand Scenarios. Responsibility: John Barrett, Nick Eyre | September 2021
Having reflected on the panel’s report, we will also devote the entire remaining Flexible Fund budget to integrative work in a CREDS final project. We have consulted our Advisory Board on the focus of this work and decided that it will address the learnings from changes in energy demand in the pandemic to the longer term challenge of net zero. The detailed planning for the project has been undertaken to enable a July start date.
- Action: Use the remaining Flexible Fund for cross-cutting work on learnings from the pandemic for the challenge of net-zero. Responsibility: Nick Eyre | July 21
Panel recommendation: Involve research landscape scoping work in conjunction with UKRI to understand and assess where CREDS is situated in the landscape and can integrate with other funded investments (such as UKERC).
As the hub for the Energy Demand Research Network, we engage with other UKRI Energy programmes with a ‘systems’ remit (notably UKERC, CESI and EnergyRev) both individually and through a UKRI led initiative. We are working with UKERC (which has the overall energy systems hub remit) to bring together key centres. We are represented on the Advisory Boards of other systems projects and hubs, including UKERC, IDLES and the Supergen Networks and Storage Hubs. We also liaise and collaborate with a broader range of hubs, such as the Circular Economy Hub, and other ‘non-hub’ activities funded by UKRI, such as the Active Buildings Centre (ABC), the Smart Energy Research Laboratory (SERL), the Low Temperature Heat Recovery and Distribution Network Technologies project (LotNet) and the Centre for Climate and Social Transformations (CAST). We have made an input to UKRI SWOT analyses on EUED and are inputting into the Net Zero programme development.
We would be happy to work with UKRI and other energy systems and hub investments on a broader landscaping exercise.
Panel recommendation: develop a structural approach and gap analysis of where interdisciplinarity can be improved and further integrated across the whole breadth of the Centre.
In principle the disciplinary scope relevant to energy demand is very broad. And many interesting research problems are inter-disciplinary. This is reflected in our themes, all of which are inter-disciplinary. Those which might appear at first sight as ‘technical’, e.g. ‘decarbonisation heat’ and ‘decarbonisation of steel’, have social science integrated within them. Those which might appear at first sight as ‘social’, e.g. ‘transport and mobility’ and ‘digital society’ have firm technical foundations.
Choice of disciplinary input in individual projects has been determined by the research questions and appropriate methodologies, rather than by interdisciplinarity for its own sake or a top-down attempt to balance disciplines. Because of our focus on researching more substantial change, we tend to draw on disciplinary approaches that study systemic rather than marginal change.
We have considered a ‘disciplinary audit’ and decided it would be of limited value. Many CREDS researchers’ current expertise and research interests differ from their original degree, making their discipline difficult to define. And, most encouragingly, many consider themselves to be inter-disciplinary researchers.
In designing and managing an inter-disciplinary, whole systems energy research centre we have been mindful of the inevitable tensions described in the UKERC work by Winskel (2018) between disciplinary diversity and integration. We deliberately have a strong focus on integration, given our objectives, but not at the exclusion of diverse inputs. We also seek to avoid other pitfalls set out in the same paper, notably separate ‘technical’ and ‘social’ silos, lack of theme interaction and reliance on a single system model as integrator.
Panel recommendation: This should include seeking to influence institutional cultures where these inhibit more effective working practices and limit the career opportunities for interdisciplinary early and mid-career researchers.
We agree that institutional cultures and structures within UKRI and universities are often unhelpful. It is striking that many researchers within CREDS are based in inter-disciplinary institutes, where these biases are weakest. We plan to continue, as a Centre and within our individual institutions, to advocate for change. We are, however, realistic about the scope for significant change within the period of the CREDS grant.
- Action: continue to advocate for change to support inter-disciplinary research within our institutions. Responsibility: Nick Eyre, Theme leads | March 2023
Panel recommendation: Develop and implement a Succession Planning strategy to ensure researchers are supported and developed in all stages of their careers.
Having consulted UKRI colleagues, we interpret this to relate to support for early and mid- career researchers within the time period of CREDS. We welcome the recognition of the work that CREDS has done to support ECR career development, in particular through project leadership opportunities. We will continue to support them as projects proceed, by engaging them in theme and Centre meetings and through mentoring, training and development opportunities. For example we plan impact training for every theme in the next 6 months.
- Action: Continue to support CREDS researchers through mentoring, training and development opportunities. Responsibility: Nick Eyre, theme leads, Clare Downing, Sarah Higginson | March 2023
We welcome the panel’s support for better career planning for energy demand researchers, the majority of who are on fixed term contracts. Given our role as a fixed period UKRI investment, CREDS does not have the remit, powers or resources to deliver an effective long- term plan for its participants. We would be happy to discuss with UKRI future plans for energy demand research and, in this context, how to improve succession planning.
Criterion 1: Is the Centre delivering World Class Research in the area of End Use Energy Demand?
Panel recommendation: Consider the aims and research programme of the Centre, whether they still align and are reflective of the future evidence needs.
We have carefully considered this recommendation. We recognise that the Panel’s comment about revisiting “the Centre’s aims of going ‘faster, further and flexibly'” reflects a common misunderstanding. The stated aim is to “understand how to… go further… go faster… and facilitate greater flexibility in energy demand”. It was adopted to emphasise the importance of studying deeper demand reduction and flexibility as part of energy demand’s role in decarbonised energy systems. But it has often been wrongly interpreted as being about our internal operations. We therefore propose to change the aim to: “The Centre’s aim is to understand the role of energy demand change in accelerating the transition to a zero-carbon energy system, including the technical, social and governance challenges of demand reduction, flexible demand and use of decarbonised energy”. This builds on the priorities identified in our ‘Shifting the Focus’ report.
- Action: change the CREDS aim to: “The Centre’s aim is to understand the role of energy demand change in accelerating the transition to a zero-carbon energy system, including the technical, social and governance challenges of demand reduction, flexible demand and use of decarbonised energy”. Responsibility: Nick Eyre | August 2021
Panel recommendation: Develop a set of benchmarks/performance criteria that can be used to define world-class research and identify what themes are going to need assistance to achieve this by the end of the project.
We monitor impact through well-established processes. Each project and theme reports quarterly on outputs and key impacts, and these feed into our annual Research Fish submission. We are also continuing to collect more qualitative data on engagement in an impact spreadsheet to inform case studies. We recognise that experts in research evaluation have undertaken major efforts in the context of Research Fish, Research Excellence Framework (REF) and other exercises to develop metrics and other performance criteria. We do not have the resources or expertise to add significantly to these efforts. We therefore propose to continue to use these existing metrics and approaches.
We support best practice in research methods, both through internal discussion and a specific focus on data management, including a project to promote best practice across CREDS.
We recognise the importance of keeping research quality under review. That responsibility sits squarely with the Director and Theme leaders. We discuss problematic issues quarterly at Executive meetings. We recognise that a more substantial review is merited at this point in the life of the Centre and propose to do that through meetings between the Director and individual theme leaders in the months following the adoption of this Action Plan.
- Action: Review research quality through individual meetings of theme leaders with the Director. Responsibility: Nick Eyre, Theme leads | December 2021
Criterion 2: Is the Centre maintaining a critical mass of interdisciplinary activity through a coherent programme of research that covers the full breadth of the topic?
Panel recommendation: Review the level of inter-disciplinarity being achieved across the programme and how the Centre can achieve additionality, rather than focusing on individual institutional members. Make improvements where required, including seeking to influence institutional cultures where these inhibit more effective working practices.
- See response under ‘Inter-disciplinarity’ in the Action Plan
Panel recommendation: Reflect on the role CREDS has in delivering Responsible Research and Innovation and promote good practices and case studies where appropriate.
Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) is not a framing we have used, nor, to our knowledge do others working in energy demand research. Of course, all our research that involves humans is subject to established ethics approval procedures in our constituent universities. However, we recognise that there are wider issues. We are confident that the concerns underlying the need for RRI are accepted by the vast majority of energy demand researchers, who are attracted to the topic because of a commitment to social and environmental responsibility. However, given the importance attached to RRI by UKRI, we will review our research programme against its principles, identifying and delivering any actions needed to ensure our research in consistent with them.
- Action: Review research programme against the principles of Responsible Research an Innovation. Responsibility: Nick Eyre | March 2022.
Panel recommendation: Undertake a gap analysis of CREDS, clarify what is ‘in’ and ‘out’ of scope for the Centre, to provide overt clarity, and identify where improvements can be made.
- See responses under ‘Scope’ and ‘Integration’ in the Action Plan.
Criterion 3: Is the Centre achieving wider integration through their cross-cutting challenges and links with the supply side, with an understanding of whole energy system research?
Panel recommendation: Scope where energy demand sits in the broader energy transition and its interdependencies with other parts of the system and associated investments.
- See response under ‘Integration’ in the Action Plan.
Panel recommendation: Consider energy demand interactions between sectors, e.g. heat and transport. CREDS should consider the impact of delivering sector specific solutions, the unintended consequences or additional challenges these create and the need (or not) for greater integration.
We have undertaken cross-sectoral research within our integration projects, as well as in some work within the themes (e.g. the ‘excess’ project in Transport and Mobility’ and the ‘e-working’ project in Digital Society). The Decarbonisation of Heat challenge has focussed on wider energy system architecture issues. As part of our integration project on Low Energy Demand scenarios, we have assessed interactions between drivers of heating and transport demand.
We plan to research the interactions between heating and transport electrification as part of the CREDS final project.
- Action: Ensure CREDS Final project includes interactions between heating and transport electrification. Responsibility: Nick Eyre | July 2021.
Criterion 4: Is the Centre acting as a focal point for engagement and communication with relevant stakeholders such as policy makers?
Panel recommendation: The CREDS team should undertake a thorough review of their stakeholder engagement activities, particularly with the private sector and local government, identify gaps and develop a plan for how these can be addressed.
Panel recommendation: CREDS should adopt a robust and resilient approach to stakeholder engagement to maximise impact, particularly with stakeholders who initially appear unreceptive.
- See responses under ‘Stakeholder engagement’ in the Action Plan.
Criterion 5: Is the Centre on track to deliver research that has real and measurable impact on the UK energy landscape and beyond? Score: 5
Panel recommendation: Review the Impact Plan to explore where metrics and success measures can feature to highlight where real change or impact has been achieved.
Panel recommendation: Review how the Centre collects evidence of impact to ensure they are able to demonstrate impact at the end of the grant.
- See responses under ‘Impact’ in the Action Plan.
Criterion 6: Is the Centre acting as a beacon for Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)?
Panel recommendation: revisit the EDI Plan to include measures of success and have greater emphasis on actions.
The EDI Working Group of CREDS is charged with keeping the EDI plan under review. In recent months, reliance on volunteer effort has proved a significant constraint, and therefore we have recently recruited a part-time EDI manager which significantly increases our capacity to deliver the actions identified as desirable.
- Action: Review EDI Plan. Responsibility: Nick Eyre, Anuja Saunders | March 2022
Panel recommendation: Ensure EDI is championed and integrated within all research themes.
EDI issues form part of every CREDS Whole Centre meeting and we propose to continue this. We plan a ‘spotlight’ campaign on EDI later in 2021.
- Action: ‘Spotlight’ campaign on EDI. Responsibility: Clare Downing, Anuja Saunders | November 2021
The programmes of each theme include research that addresses interactions between energy demand change and socio-economic inequalities. The form of this depends on the research topic, for example research steel decarbonisation takes into account the risks to industrial production of the UK ‘going alone’ to more costly manufacturing options. The FAIR Challenge project was commissioned specifically in response to recognition of the importance of equality and justice issues in the energy transition. It was designed to adhere to EDI principles by having an inclusive research team and processes, ensuring that findings reflect the voice of research participants.
Most energy demand research related to equality relates primarily to income and/or socio- economic status. We have less research work relevant to the specific protected characteristics normally highlighted under EDI. Working with the Runnymede Trust, we have convened a workshop to consider the possible interactions between racial justice and energy demand research, based on which we now plan to appoint a researcher to scope the future research agenda in this field.
- Action: Appoint researcher to scope the research agenda on racial equality and energy demand. Responsibility: Nick Eyre, Sarah Higginson, Anuja Saunders | February 2022
Panel recommendation: Develop work focused on influencing universities and institutions to be better at EDI.
As part of CREDS EDI Plan, we interact annually with each CREDS institution to provide data on recruitment and urge appropriate attention to EDI issues.
Criterion 7: Is the Centre on track to deliver the leaders of tomorrow, building capacity through the training of highly skilled multi-disciplinary researchers, developing early career networks, and succession planning?
Panel recommendation: Consider diversity in career aspirations and trajectories for both ECRs and mid-career researchers.
- See response under ‘Capacity Building’ in the Action Plan.
Panel recommendation: Ensure that the risks associated with the approach of appointing ECRs in more senior positions are effectively managed (the panel would expect to see this specifically highlighted in the Risk Register).
An important CREDS innovation, which has been widely welcomed, is to allow ECRs to lead specific projects. We recognise that this can lead to additional risks, although many ECRs do have project leadership experience. And, outside universities, people at ECR levels of experience routinely lead projects. To mitigate risk, we have undertaken induction training and integrated these projects into themes to allow mentoring and support. We will include risks associated with ECR project leadership in the next revision of the Risk Register.
- Action: include risks associated with ECR project leadership in the next revision of the Risk Register. Responsibility: Clare Downing | July 2021
Winskel, M. (2018). The pursuit of interdisciplinary whole systems energy research: Insights from the UK Energy Research Centre. Energy Research & Social Science, 37: 74-84. doi: 10.1016/j.erss.2017.09.012
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