British Antarctic Survey hackathon triumph for Cambridge Design Partnership


Cambridge Design Partnership’s concept of helping the British Antarctic Survey achieve net zero led to a triumph in a leadership challenge from the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability.

Cambridge Design Partnership’s new head office is located in Bourn

The one-day virtual hackathon, organized by the Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) at the University of Cambridge in collaboration with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and Cambridge Zero, brought together global innovators from business and academia. Nine teams were challenged to find ways to help BAS achieve net zero by addressing one of three categories: energy reduction and generation, back-up systems and energy storage.

The winning submission from Cambridge Design Partnership (CDP) offered a new combination of three solutions for energy storage at BAS’s Rothera research station, in one of the most isolated and formidable environments on the planet – l island of Adelaide west of the Antarctic Peninsula.

The Toft-based engineering design team – soon to be relocating to Bourn – has prioritized the application of established and proven technologies in innovative ways. This has led to three potential solutions – all aimed at reducing investment costs and reliance on more expensive and technologically complex forms of energy storage.

– Distributed heat storage using latent heat to lock in room temperature with phase change material panels

– Store heat in the building structure in times of over-supply

– Behavioral nudges that encourage activities to be scheduled for times of over-supply.

RRS Sir David Attenborough moored at BAS's Rothera research station wharf in Antarctica
RRS Sir David Attenborough moored at BAS’s Rothera research station wharf in Antarctica

Eithne George, Program Director at CISL, said: “It was great to see companies with local roots like CDP participating in the hackathon.

“Regarding CDP’s presentation, we particularly liked the human-centered approach to thermal comfort, recognizing that in extremely remote locations, demand must meet supply to some extent. The team had a clear rationale for using innovative materials as well as behavioral advice to make the most of the oversupply of renewable energy at certain times of the day.

“The judges were unanimous on the judgment: in their opinion, the CDP’s proposal was the strongest. “

Nopi Exizidou, Senior Carbon Manager (Head of Net Zero Transition) at British Antarctic Survey, said:.

Antarctica is a forbidden and wonderful place.  Photo: Pete Bucktrout
Antarctica is a forbidden and wonderful place. Photo: Pete Bucktrout

“It was great to see new ideas coming together based on the fact that the CDP has assembled a multidisciplinary team, tackling one of the biggest challenges we have in Antarctica.”

Matt Morris, Head of Sustainability at CDP, said: “First, we analyzed the problem to find areas of focus that would benefit BAS. Then our multidisciplinary team generated as many solutions as possible, followed by a structured assessment to decide which solutions to pursue. Finally, we conducted targeted research and analysis to provide evidence that the solutions could solve the problems of BAS. It was difficult to fit into a one day event, but the energy and enthusiasm of the team got us there. It was difficult to fit into a one day event, but the energy and enthusiasm of the team got us there.

“We see a role for innovation in finding creative solutions to help close the gap between the global sustainability goals and our current trajectory – the implementation gap.

“The BAS challenge was a perfect example.


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