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Building new bridges after Brexit - an SCCS 15th Anniversary blog

Dr Romain Viguier, SCCS Business Development & Project Manager

To celebrate 15 years of SCCS, each member of the team has written a blog [for the SCCS website]. Now it's my turn and I want to talk about my experience over the past six years and reflect on how the team has adapted to changes.

Obviously, the SCCS project that was funded 15 years ago is not the same as it is now – independent, more outward looking and collaborating more widely – but the biggest shift for me has been the coming of Brexit.

After the Brexit vote in June 2016, my immediate thought was “building bridges”, not physical bridges across the North Sea but links between our organisation in Scotland and Europe. I called the headquarters of the oil major TOTAL in Paris and discussed possible carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects with their head of research.

We quickly agreed that it would be a good thing to join efforts and for SCCS and the University of Edinburgh to share expertise in order to develop CCS infrastructure across Europe. Just a few weeks later, the head of research introduced me to the CCS team leader at BRGM, France’s national geological survey, and we discussed ideas for potential projects.

Ideas developed further, week after week, and moved towards the development of strategic planning for CCS in Europe. New partners were invited to join and our consortium grew bigger and started to look very strong: the UK with France, Norway, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Croatia, Greece and Romania, working together to deliver a plan to decarbonise European Industry with CCUS … We were building new bridges not only across the North Sea but across Europe.

The project, named STRATEGY CCUS, was eventually submitted to a Horizon 2020 call and was successful. Since May 2019, the SCCS team and groups of researchers at the University of Edinburgh’s schools of Geosciences and Engineering have been very busy defining a methodology for industry cluster development, a methodology for CO2 storage assessment and a model to manage CO2 transport between CO2 sources and storage sites.

We reached the halfway point of this three-year project in October last year: it was an occasion for looking back at what had been achieved over 18 months, and looking forward, very positively into the future. I’m not too sad when a good project is entering its second part, because projects come and go. Partners in successful projects, however, tend to stay together and that is the cement of our bridges.

The one single consolation I get from the Brexit negotiation is that the UK is fully committed to taking part in European research programmes and in the coming Horizon Europe, in particular – it is the follow-up programme of Horizon 2020.

The UK has left the EU but here we are, still developing projects with our many European partners. I’m glad that the bridges we started building the day after Brexit are getting stronger and are somehow bringing us closer to Europe than we ever were before.

Photo: the Millau viaduct (engineer Michel Viologeux and architect Norman Foster). Picture credit Jean-Philippe Arles, Reuters-Corbis 2015.

This blog was originally published on the SCCS website on 23 February 2021