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Chancellor calls for UK to become world leader in energy storage

Chancellor George Osborne has said the UK must take a global lead in developing a series of low carbon technologies, including energy efficient computing and energy storage, in his first major speech on scientific issues, The Guardian reported.

Speaking at the Royal Society, Mr Osborne maintained he was keen to exploit the economic benefits of scientific excellence to ensure Britain was “the best place in the world to do science”.

He listed eight future technologies, where the UK is already leading, but could become the world-leader.

They consisted of the so-called “Big Data” revolution and innovations in energy efficient computing; synthetic biology; regenerative medicine, agri-science, energy storage, advanced materials, robotics and autonomous systems, and satellites and commercial applications of space.

He also announced multi-million pound funding for a number of university research projects into synthetic technologies with environmental benefits, such programmes designed to produce biofuel from bacteria.

The appearance of many clean technologies on Mr Osborne’s list of priorties represents arguably the strongest signal yet that he is keen to boost green growth.

However, the speech failed to explicitly mention climate science or the ongoing row over the development of onshore wind power in the UK, raising further questions about the chancellor’s commitment to tackling climate change.

Mr Osborne hailed energy storage as a key technology that could help boost the market for electric vehicles and enhance the UK’s energy security.

Industry experts argue that the development of electricity storage technologies will be crucial to the large-scale deployment of intermittent renewable energy systems, such as wind turbines and solar panels.

In addition, he revealed the government is to invest £20m in research into synthetic biology to help tackle “major global challenges”, such as the need to produce low-carbon fuel and reduce the cost of industrial raw materials.

The University of Manchester has secured £4.4m to develop bio-catalysts that could speed up the process of turning biomass into renewable fuels, while the University of Exeter will also receive £4m for researching how microbes can produce biofuel.

The University of Nottingham has secured £2.9m to investigate a technology that could absorb excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and convert it into useful chemicals and fuels.

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