Shared energy: UCL and BHP Billiton unite over sustainable resources

18 June 2012

How do we make sure we don’t use up the earth’s resources? It’s a major global challenge, and one that UCL can now examine in far greater depth thanks to a new collaboration with the world’s largest mining and resources company, BHP Billiton.

Solar energy

In June 2011, UCL entered into a landmark agreement with BHP Billiton, strengthening the university’s position in resources and international energy policy.

The first ever dual-hemisphere partnership for UCL is creating two new Institutes: the Institute for Sustainable Resources in London, UK and an International Energy Policy Institute in Adelaide, Australia.

Cross-University involvement

BHP Billiton will provide $10 million to fund the partnership, in recognition of UCL’s world-class, multidisciplinary approach to resources, which encompasses legal, environmental, technological, scientific and engineering disciplines.

According to Dr Anna Clark, Director of Corporate Partnerships at UCL, this is one of the factors that make the programme so special. She said, “The strength of the whole project lies in its multidisciplinary approach. Earth Sciences and Engineering are leading the initiative, but there will be broad engagement across UCL. We’re building a thought-leading academic community.”

Strong bonds

The new Institutes are built on the foundations of a strong relationship between the two organisations, grown over several years. Dr Clark noted that “BHP Billiton has established an excellent reputation in Australia and in many of its operating countries; it has been a pleasure to help develop its relationship with UCL and to see increasing confidence in the partnership.”

A creative vision

“After a couple of years, BHP Billiton – in particular Dr Andrew Mackenzie, Chief Executive Non-Ferrous – chose UCL as one of their preferred partners. Then it was up to us to present a vision that would really excite them.”

And it was this vision that sealed the deal. Dr Clark continued, “I think they were impressed with the creativity of our offering, our responsiveness, our understanding of their company.

“Three UCL Vice-Provosts contributed expertly to the vision and final delivery: Vice-Provost (Enterprise) Professor Stephen Caddick, Vice-Provost (International) Professor Michael Worton and Vice-Provost (Research) Professor David Price, with his particularly relevant Earth Science background. It was a fantastic team effort.”

North meets South

Work now begins to strengthen ties between the UK and Australia, focusing on all aspects of sustainable resource and energy policy. UCL researchers and students are offered the unique opportunity of working in Adelaide - the new Energy Policy Institute sits alongside UCL’s existing School of Energy Resources (UCL SERAus) in the city - and their Australian counterparts will have the opportunity to gain experience in the UK.

“The idea is very much to encourage interchange at all levels across the two sides of the globe,” said Dr Clark. “We have one of the first university-corporate partnerships in the world that can be described as truly dual-hemisphere. It’s a fantastic outcome.”