£7.6 million funding to develop cutting-edge digital technology for nuclear power generation

A consortium of academic and industrial experts will join forces to develop the digital technology required for a step-change in the design, fabrication, and in-service assessment of nuclear power plant components.

Announced today (Friday 2 April 2021) by Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, £2.4 million has been awarded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), matched by £3.4 million from EDF as the lead industrial partner. The consortium will be led by the University of Bristol in partnership with EDF, the University of Manchester, Imperial College London and the Science and Technology Facilities Council.

This five-year Prosperity Partnership, entitled Synergistic utilisation of INformatics and Data centRic Integrity engineering (SINDRI), will help to reduce the cost of future low-carbon energy generation as part of the drive to achieve a Net Zero carbon economy. Over the course of the research programme, the partnership will create seven new research roles, and incorporate eighteen PhD studentships.

In addition to the funding from EPSRC and EDF, the project has received around £2 million support from the universities and other project stakeholders, including Jacobs, National Nuclear Laboratory, United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, Henry Royce Institute, and the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.

This will enable the Partnership to support a transformation in the nuclear sector by developing an overarching digital framework encompassing a suite of models that simulate the behaviour of materials from their entry into service through to their end of life. Moving from manual to digital processes of design, build and operation for large industrial assets, including critical low-carbon energy generation infrastructure, will improve efficiency and reduce costs.

This framework to be developed by the Partnership will be incorporated into EDF's federated simulation ecosystem of multi-physics Digital Twins, replacing current manual processes. EDF is the operator of the UK’s fleet of nuclear power stations, is currently building a new plant at Hinkley Point C in Somerset, and in negotiations with the Government to build another in Sizewell, Suffolk.

Professor David Knowles, academic Principal Investigator in the Faculty of Engineering and CEO of the Henry Royce Institute, said:

“SINDRI brings together materials behaviour, manufacturing modelling and data science expertise to really drive a step-change in digital innovation in materials science, supporting the nuclear industry now and in the future. This research is central to the enhancement of our understanding of material behaviour which will help us attain the Government’s target of reducing the cost of new nuclear by 30% by 2030, ensuring the delivery of reliable, low-carbon energy.”

Ionel Nistor, Head of R&D Nuclear at EDF, said:

“We are enthusiastic to start working on this project which brings together academic expertise with industrial knowledge and experience to pioneer innovations in nuclear that will support our Net Zero ambitions. SINDRI will develop essential tools for the nuclear digital twins in the structural integrity area helping EDF, the UK nuclear sector and other industries to reduce costs and ensure the highest safety standards when designing, building and operating strategic industrial assets.”

Professor Philip Taylor, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at the University of Bristol, added:

“This exciting new programme highlights the strength of the longstanding Bristol-EDF strategic partnership, and the University’s leading work in improving low-carbon energy infrastructure.

As the home of the South West Nuclear Hub and the Bristol Digital Futures Institute, the University of Bristol is ideally placed to develop the scientific foundations for the design, fabrication and operation of digitally enabled materials for nuclear power plants.”

Further Information

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Prosperity Partnership Funding

Prosperity Partnerships have become EPSRC’s flagship approach to co-investing with business in long-term, use-inspired, basic research.

Since the scheme’s launch in 2017, Prosperity Partnerships have:

  • anchored private investment in the UK research base
  • enabled businesses to undertake riskier, long-term research in partnership with academia
  • delivered new and improved products, services, or process efficiencies that build on internationally-leading research achieved in partnership.


View the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy announcement of this Prosperity Partnership here 

For further information contact James Giles-Franklin, UKRI External Communications, at james.giles-franklin@ukri.org and 07702 611906.

Nuclear energy research at the University of Bristol

The University of Bristol is a leader in nuclear energy research and teaching. This has been underpinned since 2011 by the Nuclear Research Centre (NRC), a joint venture between the University of Bristol and the University of Oxford pursuing innovative research to support the safe operation of current and future generation nuclear systems.

The University of Bristol is also home to the South West Nuclear Hub, established in 2016. This strategic alliance of academic, industrial and governmental members provides a focus for nuclear innovation, research and teaching, to meet the opportunities and challenges facing nuclear energy in the UK.

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