A University of Strathclyde researcher has been awarded a prestigious Future Leaders Fellowship funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) for pioneering research to predict, prevent and mitigate power outages.
Dr Panagiotis Papadopoulos will investigate how power systems can remain stable and secure in the face of changing energy sources connecting to the electricity grid.
The fellowships support the very best early career researchers and innovators, with a £78 million fund. Each fellow can apply for up to £1.2 million.
Dr Papadopoulos, from Electronic and Electrical Engineering, is one of 78 researchers nationwide to be selected in the second round of funding and said:
I am delighted, honoured and excited to receive this fellowship and really looking forward to starting the research.
“One of the key advantages of the UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship is the strong, consistent support and level of resource offered for a long period of time that also enables a research team to be set up.
“As well as being able to carry out novel research to solve the challenging problems power systems are facing, the fellowship means that I can also engage with industry, international research organisations and eventually, policy makers in a much more effective way.
“It’s not just the building of skills for the team and myself, which is in itself is very important, but it’s also moving these academic research ideas one step closer to actual implementation because you are able to talk about the real problems faced by industry.
“It also means you can make an impact on policy and eventually society.”
The fellowships are open to early career researchers in any field of research and innovation across UKRI’s remit.
Dr Papadopoulos’s research, initially funded for four years with an opportunity of a three-year extension after review, will examine how to help keep UK power systems stable and predict, prevent and mitigate outages which might eventually lead to blackouts.
Electrical power systems are undergoing unprecedented changes, mainly driven by decarbonisation targets and climate change, as well as other technical, economic and social reasons.
Last month Britain experienced its most severe blackout in a decade after two power stations disconnected, leaving almost a million people across England and Wales without electricity. In June this year a massive electrical failure in Argentina and Uruguay left tens of millions of people in the dark.
Dr Papadopoulos said: “Climate change means there is a need to decarbonise the power sector in favour of renewable energy. There is also a move to electrify transportation through electric vehicles and potentially heating as well.
“This means a number of new technologies are being integrated into the power systems which have different characteristics from the ones we are used to.
“We need to be able to represent their dynamic behaviour appropriately in order to know how they will react and how they can support system stability.
“Ensuring stable, secure and reliable power system operation is paramount, not only for traditional electrical loads, but to power telecommunications, water supply and sanitation, natural gas production and delivery, and for transportation.
“My research will look at how to predict, prevent and mitigate the risks of blackouts and develop the models and tools needed.
“Then you have the opportunity stop cascading failures and blackouts at their onset or prevent them from happening. “
UK Science Minister Chris Skidmore said: “Delivering on our research and innovation ambitions means putting people first, whether they are just starting out in their career or are leading major projects in academia or industry.
"These inspirational Future Leaders Fellows will generate the ideas of the future, helping to shape science and research for the 21st century. But to realise the full potential of these discoveries, their ideas need to be taken out of the lab and turned into real products and services, where they can actually change people’s lives for the better.
"That’s why we are creating 20 new University Enterprise Zones, helping local start-ups to co-locate in universities to build the businesses of the future – all inspired by university research.”
UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, said: “The Future Leaders Fellowships will enable the most promising researchers and innovators to become leaders in their fields, working on subjects as diverse as climate change, dementia and quantum computing.
“UKRI is committed to creating modern research and innovation careers and our Future Leaders Fellowships aim to support and retain the most talented people, including those with flexible career paths.
“These 20 University Enterprise Zones funded by Research England will be important focal points for collaboration in business-friendly environments, driving innovation and delivering benefits that will be felt across economies at the local, regional and national scale.”