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£9.5m boost for sustainable cooling in Africa

The ACES facility at the University of Rwanda

UK: A project dedicated to sustainable, smart cold chain, cooling and post-harvest management in Africa has received a further £9.5m funding boost from the UK government.

The new funding secures work at the Africa Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Cooling and Cold Chain (ACES) in Rwanda until 2025. 

ACES was established in 2020 by the governments of the UK and Rwanda, the Centre for Sustainable Cooling, the United Nations Environment Programme’s United for Efficiency initiative and the University of Rwanda.

The UK funding will support further recruitment of lecturers, technicians and research associates on the ACES campus in Kigali, Rwanda. It also will fund additional equipment to help further explore “clean” cold-chains for food and health.

The DEFRA funding backs development of early-stage researcher and supervised PhD research programmes. It also supports the roll-out of further Specialised Outreach and Knowledge Establishment (SPOKE) hubs to share knowledge, technology demonstration and  capacity building into other African markets – building on the first SPOKE being developed in Kenya.

“Our work enables Africa’s communities to discover and unlock their economic potential and build cold-chain services for resilient and sustainable development,” commented project lead Toby Peters, director of the Centre for Sustainable Cooling at the University of Birmingham. 

“ACES can help to ensure that fresh produce reaches domestic and international consumers in its best condition, while reducing emissions, preserving natural resources and increasing farmers’ income.

“Also, energy-efficient and sustainable cold logistics will help to reduce vaccine waste – this is important for traditional vaccines and health needs, but vital as we look to deploy new mRNA vaccines requiring sub-zero and potentially ultra-cold cold-chains.” 

Working with its partners, ACES programmes delivered through the SPOKEs will enable communities to build key cold chain and cooling services using novel technologies and support development of a network of skilled refrigeration engineers.

Total UK funding to date for the programme is more than £16m and, alongside ACES, includes funding to provide the technical assistance to support the development of its second Centre of Excellence in Hyderabad, India, working with the Government of Telangana State in southern India.

The Centre for Sustainable Cooling, working with ACES co-lead, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is also organising a study tour to the UK in September for its Rwandan and Kenyan partners, which culminates in an international cold chain summit at the University of Birmingham on 29 September.

Participants will include high level government officials from Rwanda Environment Management Authority, Rwanda Biomedical Centre, and National Agricultural Export Development Board. There will also be representatives of University of Rwanda, Integrated Polytechnic Regional College Kigali, and African Centre for Technology Studies (Kenya).

Delegates will visit cold stores, ACES partner Cranfield University as well as Birmingham Energy Innovation Centre at Tyseley Energy Park. This will help to build collaboration from BEIC to ACES and a corridor to the Africa market for UK clean cooling and refrigeration technology and service providers and innovators.

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