Construction underway at £16.5m bioenergy centre

Building work underway at EBRI
Building work underway at EBRI
15 November 2011 


Building work has started at Aston University’s new £16.5m engineering laboratories, which will showcase and develop renewable low carbon technologies.  

Contractors John Sisk and Son and Aston University held a ground breaking event with key  representatives, to mark the beginning of work on the European Bioenergy Research Institute (EBRI).  

The facility, funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Aston University, itself powered by renewable energy, will include pilot scale photo bioreactors harnessing algae, and a 0.4MWel small scale industrial power plant. The Plant will generate heat and power from biomass, including sewage sludge, wood, algae and agricultural waste. 

John Sisk & Son will be constructing the new building on Aston University’s campus in Birmingham. The contract, worth £7.5m will take approximately 54 weeks to complete and will involve fitting the extensive mechanical and electrical installations required for the biomass plant and the specialist equipment needed for its bioenergy research. This research will include generating biomass by-products including hydrogen power for low carbon vehicles or fuel cells and Biochar for use as an agricultural fertiliser and a source for decentralised hydrogen production.

The new EBRI building will use the best of old and new in its design, retaining the original building’s historic 1920s façade and combining with modern glass fronted laboratories. The EBRI building was originally a cinema and later became the BBC’s regional drama studios in the 1940s.

Professor Andreas Hornung, Director of the European Bioenergy Research Institute, said: “EBRI’s new £16.5m laboratories will showcase to industry how we can produce real-life solutions to tackling waste, with both environmental and financial benefits. One of our long-term research aims is to create a ‘thermal ring’ of small scale industrial power plants around Birmingham. This could divert biodegradable waste away from landfill and incineration and feed energy back into the National Grid.”

Steve Carden, Director of Regions for John Sisk & Son, said: “This is an exciting opportunity for our Birmingham team. Not only will we be delivering a challenging project that requires some highly specialist skills but we have the chance to contribute to the University’s work towards developing low carbon technologies. As a family owned and run company we are committed to working in a sustainable way and it’s great to be part of such a pioneering project.”  

Notes to editors

About John Sisk & Son
John Sisk & Son is one of the UK’s leading main contractors - working throughout England, Wales and Scotland. It has expertise in a wide range of specialist sectors, including:

Hotel and leisure; commercial; retail; residential apartments; industrial; process industries; public works; rail; civils; and energy.

John Sisk & Son has revenues of over £350 million and a staff of 500. The company has a strong financial base and takes a long term view of investment in the marketplace, having been founded in Ireland in 1859. It is part of the strong and diversified Sisk Group (turnover of €1 billion).

The company supports clients and projects through the following locations:

  • St. Albans (Head Office for the UK)
  • Birmingham
  • Reading
  • Bristol
  • Manchester
  • Glasgow

John Sisk & Son’s experienced staff are fully committed to delivering projects safely, on time, cost effectively and to a high quality, reinforced by our “Zeros” initiative.

To find out more about John Sisk & Son in the UK, visit:

To find out more about Sisk Group, visit:

The European Regional Development Fund Programme

1. The Department for Communities and Local Government is the managing authority for the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Programme which runs from 2007 to 2013. This is one of the funds established by the European Commission to help local areas stimulate their economic development.

2. The West Midlands European Regional Development Fund Programme has been allocated 400 million euros to invest in projects which will support local businesses and create jobs.

3. In the West Midlands the priority areas and themes are:

Innovation and Research & Development - Increasing investment in research and development through helping businesses take forward new innovation, sharing of knowledge and developing and demonstrating new technology

Enterprise Development - Increasing business performance through supporting high growth businesses, improving resource efficiency, providing access to finance and developing a strong entrepreneurial culture

Sustainable Urban Development - Improving the performance of key urban areas through regenerating local areas, encouraging investment and new businesses, creating job opportunities and helping communities most in need

Inter-Regional Activity - Working with European partners to learn and improve, share and apply best practice and solve problems.


European Regional Development Fund