NSF, international partners, invest US$76.4 million in inaugural Global Centers Competition awards

September 18th, 2023

Six of the nation’s leading research institutions, including Australia’s national science agency CSIRO, have united with international researchers to spearhead innovation to address challenges in clean energy production and storage.

In a joint effort between Australia, the US, Canada, and the UK, two multi-lateral research projects have been announced today as part of the National Science Foundation Global Centers in Climate Change and Clean Energy (NSF Global Centers) program.

Together, these countries have pledged more than AU$118 million in investment in the NSF Global Centers program over five years to tackle challenges posed by climate change as the world moves towards net zero.

Kirsten Rose, Acting Chief Executive of CSIRO, said as Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO is proud to be part of a strong national contribution to solving this critical global challenge.

“CSIRO is proud to stand alongside numerous Australian research organisations to combine our shared expertise, strengthening our national response to accelerate the transition to a cleaner, sustainable energy future,” Ms Rose said.

“Collaborative initiatives like CSIRO’s Hydrogen Industry Mission and Smart Energy Mission are essential in ensuring solutions are co-designed with industry, research, and our communities.

“Partnering with the NSF’s Global Centers means Australia remains at the global forefront of work to build a clean hydrogen industry, build integrated and equitable energy systems, and partnering with regions and industries for a low emissions future.”

Two projects earmarked by the multi-national collaboration are being steered by Australian innovations:

  • The Electric Power Innovation for a Carbon-free Society (EPICS) Center will be a global scientific leader in developing transformative computing, economic strategies, engineering solutions, and forward-thinking policy to enable a completely renewable energy power grid. This joint project involves the US, UK, and Australia and is led by CSIRO and AEMO, the University of Melbourne, and Monash University in Australia.
  • The Global Hydrogen Production Technologies (HyPT) Center is pioneering large-scale net-zero hydrogen production methods. It explores three innovative technologies: renewable energy-integrated water electrolysis, methane pyrolysis with valuable solid carbon co-products, and solar-driven water splitting. The University of Adelaide, Flinders University, and Curtin University represent Australia in this international collaboration, working with partners from the US, Canada, the UK, Egypt, and Germany.

The institutions will pool resources and expertise to confront the challenges of a changing climate and continue the charge towards net zero emissions.

Speaking on the EPICS Center, the University of Melbourne Chair of Electrical Power Systems and Australian EPICS Centre Principal Investigator, Professor Pierluigi Mancarella, said, “This Global Center is an unprecedented opportunity to partner with major international institutes in the US and UK, and harness world-leading research to address some of the most pressing scientific challenges that Australia and other jurisdictions worldwide are facing during the energy transition towards net zero.

“These challenges range from guaranteeing stable and secure system operation in the presence of ultra-high penetration of variable energy sources and distributed energy resources, most of which are based on power electronic interfaces, to identifying reliable and resilient investment paths across the whole energy system in the presence of deep, long-term planning uncertainty,” Professor Mancarella said.

Speaking on the HyPT Centre, the University of Adelaide’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Anton Middelberg, said the University of Adelaide is delighted to be working with CSIRO and other partners to advance the commercialisation of technology that has the potential to be game-changing for hydrogen production.

“Our world-class researchers will be collaborating on finding solutions that will help create a more sustainable future for society,” Professor Middelberg said.

As the national science agency, CSIRO plays an important role in connecting and strengthening the Australian innovation ecosystem. This ensures we are equipped to meet our biggest challenges for the future and allows us to harness global networks to facilitate opportunities for collaborative research across industry, government, and science organisations.

CSIRO’s missions are large-scale scientific and collaborative research initiatives that aim to work across the innovation system to make significant breakthroughs. Through missions, CSIRO aims to accelerate the pace and scale at which the nation can solve our challenges and unlock a better future.


Additional quotes

National Science Foundation: “NSF builds capacity and advances its priorities through these centers of research excellence by uniting diverse teams from around the world,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan.

“Global Centers will sync talent across the globe to generate the discoveries and solutions needed to empower resilient communities everywhere.”

UK Research and Innovation: “UKRI’s Building a Green Future Programme aims to harness the power of research and innovation to tackle hard-to-decarbonise sectors in our economy. We are excited to be partnering with our sister organisations in the US, Canada and Australia to accelerate progress toward this crucial goal,” said Dame Ottoline Leyser, CEO UKRI.

“Our combined investment in Global Centers enables exciting researcher and innovation-led international and interdisciplinary collaboration to drive the energy transition. I look forward to seeing the creative solutions developed through these global collaborations.”

AEMO: Executive General Manager Operations, Michael Gatt, said there is a joint response globally to enable the secure operation of power systems challenged by the rapid transition to inverter-based variable renewable generation. “This research funding will contribute to identifying and resolving engineering and system issues that facilitate the continued transformation of Australia’s energy system,” Mr Gatt said.


Note to editors

About the National Science Foundation Global Centers in Climate Change and Clean Energy

The NSF Global Centers in Climate Change and Clean Energy is a multi-million-dollar partnership involving the United States (NSF); Canada (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada); the United Kingdom (UK Research and Innovation); and Australia (CSIRO).

The NSF Global Centers is committing $US76.4 million (more than AU$118 million) over five years across the four partner countries and are supporting international, interdisciplinary collaborative research centres to bring together the brightest minds from across the globe to address the most pressing challenges the world faces today.

In Australia, the Global Centers are supported to align with the ambitions of CSIRO’s Missions – specifically those established to respond to the energy transition. Australian participation, through CSIRO, is supported by the Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF).

NSF and CSIRO have enabled several opportunities across the two countries besides the Global Centers program, partnering in responsible and ethical Artificial Intelligence (AI) and developing sustainable materials for global challenges. For more on this program, visit the National Science Foundation’s website.