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Voyage of discovery

23 July 2009

Studying the estuary charts are (left to right) Professor Roger Falconer (School of Engineering), Professor Steve Ormerod (School of Biosciences), Professor John Parkes (School of Earth and Ocean Sciences), Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Terry Rees and Secretary of State Ed Miliband.Studying the estuary charts are (left to right) Professor Roger Falconer (School of Engineering), Professor Steve Ormerod (School of Biosciences), Professor John Parkes (School of Earth and Ocean Sciences), Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Terry Rees and Secretary of State Ed Miliband.

Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, has taken an up-close view of the Severn Estuary, courtesy of the University.

The Secretary of State was on board the University’s research and teaching vessel Guiding Light, which took him on a voyage from Cardiff Bay to view one of the proposed lines for the Severn Barrage. The Department for Energy and Climate Change is currently consulting on options for a possible tidal power scheme in the Estuary. While in Cardiff for a cabinet meeting, Mr Miliband had requested the chance to go out to see one of the areas under study.

On board with the Secretary of State were a number of University academics who are experts in a variety of sustainability issues. Dr Chris Wooldridge, a lecturer and researcher in marine geography, who also skippered the boat, explained the tidal flows in the area to Mr Miliband. His colleagues in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Deputy Head of School and microbial ecologist Professor John Parkes, and Professor Joe Cartwright, an expert on sedimentary basins, also briefed the minister.

The Secretary of State also met two experts from the School of Engineering. Professor Roger Falconer, who sits on the expert panel for the Severn Tidal Power Feasibility Study, spoke about his work modelling in detail the impact of proposed tidal power projects in the estuary. Professor Nick Jenkins is director of the School’s Institute of Energy and has just been appointed to lead a UK-wide study on sustainable energy supply.

Also on board was Professor Steve Ormerod of the School of Biosciences, whose research looks at biodiversity and ecosystems. He spoke to Mr Miliband about the ecology of the Severn Estuary.

Professor Terry Rees, Cardiff University Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research, said: "The Secretary of State was able to hear from some of our international experts in engineering, biodiversity and marine science, giving him a wide range of insights into the latest thinking in sustainability research. We were also, through our unique learning and research vessel, Guiding Light, able to show the Secretary of State the marine and ecological background to the Government’s eventual decision on a Severn tidal scheme."

The Welsh Assembly Government’s Director of Sustainable Energy and Industry Wales, Dr Ron Loveland, also joined the voyage.

At the same time, the University hosted a visit by Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Home Civil Service Sir Gus O’Donnell who was also in Cardiff as part of Gordon Brown’s Cabinet meeting in Wales.

The visit, which included a tour of the School of Optometry and Vision Sciences’ impressive teaching and research facility, enabled Sir Gus to be briefed on the planned developments across the University to transform the working environment throughout the estate, helping to establish itself in the forefront of the world’s universities.

Professor Malcolm Jones, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Health and Estates presented the University’s vision for the exciting Campus Horizons programme of capital investment, including its centrepiece third campus. Mr O’Donnell saw the site of the proposed ‘Gateway Building’ which will become the ‘front door’ for the entire campus.

The Cabinet's regional visit also included a round table discussion attended by representatives from the University's Student Enterprise, part of the Research and Commercial Division. Student Enterprise officers Neil Coles and Antonia Coppen were invited to hear a speech by the Prime Minister where he announced new initiatives for young people. They also joined a round table discussion with Secretary of State for International Development, Douglas Alexander MP, which centred on support for early stage SMEs and the continued need to develop entrepreneurial and commercially aware students.

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