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The National Energy Research and Demonstrator (NERD) project

Ayrshire Growth Deal

The National Energy Research and Demonstrator (NERD) project is one of a raft of projects funded by the Ayrshire Growth Deal

Background to the Ayrshire Growth Deal

The Ayrshire Growth Deal (AGD) is an ambitious multi-million pound investment package that aims to transform the Ayrshire economy. The UK and Scottish Governments will invest over £200 million with additional financial support from the three Ayrshire Councils. Among the proposed projects are an Aerospace and Innovation centre at Prestwick airport, an Ayrshire Manufacturing Investment Corridor at Bellfield, a subsea fibre optic cable in Irvine and the NERD project in Cumnock. The AGD should create around 7,000 jobs across Ayrshire over a 15 year period.

What is NERD?

NERD is funded through the Ayrshire Growth Deal with £17 million of funding from the UK Government and £7.5 million from East Ayrshire Council. The project aims to transform energy production, distribution and connections within the Cumnock area and be an exemplar to Scotland and the UK in making the transition to a low carbon society. NERD will:

  • develop the energy system of the future
  • create a nationally significant and distinctive Centre of Excellence for energy systems research and innovation
  • support the development and delivery of innovative, highly efficient energy generation, storage and distribution systems to create a flexible, locally distribution grid which will help communities to become  self-sufficient in energy
  • Cumnock will become an exemplar low carbon town and a route map for other locations in Scotland and UK to become self sufficient in energy supplies from local grids
  • attract new business and economic activity to the area to achieve inclusive growth for the region
  • enable Scotland to become a pioneer in renewable energy technology and contribute to Scotland becoming a net zero society by 2045 (or before)

Scope of NERD

NERD will transform the Cumnock and Doon Valley area, ensuring that communities can transition to a low carbon society and introducing energy as a service to East Ayrshire by 2030. A purpose built, state of the art, Centre of Excellence  will allow researchers and business to work together to find renewable solutions to enhancing the existing grid.

NERD will carry out a suite of Demonstrator projects  to solve local issues around energy generation, usage and storage. These projects will:

  • minimise technical, geological, environmental and societal risks
  • maximise socio-economic benefits
  • engage communities in their energy future
  • helping to develop East Ayrshire towns/villages as successful places

NERD will work in phases to deliver:

  • SMART and low carbon transport system
  • SMART grid systems and technologies
  • STEM education programmes (working with East Ayrshire schools and Dumfries House)
  • SMART energy community schemes- including a local community energy company
  • reuse of former opencast coal sites for energy generation

At the heart of NERD, the Centre of Excellence will house workshop space for research and development, incubation and demonstrator space. It will include five research hubs which  will be available for research and business support with laboratory and workshop space for a minimum of two PHD students per hub.

NERD includes proposals to  build two demonstrator houses to showcase the new technologies and systems and offer members of the public first-hand experience of the future energy system. Both the Centre and Demonstrator houses will be built to the highest sustainability standards including Passivhaus.

What are the benefits?

NERD will:

  • have a significant impact on regional economic growth in Ayrshire 
  • boost Scottish engineering, technology and energy sectors
  • contribute to academic research in energy and technology
  • reduce fuel poverty and protect vulnerable users in de-industrialised areas
  • improve local and national energy security and reduce reliance on gas
  • reduce barriers to uptake of low carbon energy technologies and systems
  • build community capacity through effective end-user and community involvement across the Cumnock and Doon Valley area
  • inform appropriate regulation for safe, secure and economically viable low carbon energy
  • improve the local transport system with introduction of electric vehicles and establishment of an active travel network
  • create new  STEM educational opportunities and complement existing provision in the area


  • 2019 - energy modelling of the area and preparation of Strategic and Outline Business Cases
  • 2020 - Outline Business Case approved, procurement plan and concept of building agreed
  • 2021 - initial demonstrator projects begin
  • 2022 - building of the Centre of Excellence begins 
  • 2023 - completion of Centre of Excellence 
  • 2024 onwards - a range of demonstrator projects will be carried out, businesses will operate from the Centre of Excellence, with PHD students working from the lab space 

Key partners

Our key partners in this project are:

  • UK Government
  • Scottish Government
  • East Ayrshire Council
  • University of Strathclyde
  • Scottish Power Energy Networks
  • Energy Technology Partnership
  • Scottish Enterprise
  • Scottish Towns Partnership
  • British Geological Survey
  • Scottish Futures Trust.

View our NERD presentation (PDF 1.02MB)

What is happening now?

  • Documents for the project were submitted to the UK and Scottish Governments at the end of August 2019
  • Once these documents have been signed off by both Governments, the money for the project will be unlocked and the project can begin
  • A programme of community engagement and information events will be carried out in 2020

Useful links

The project will work in conjunction with University of Strathclyde's Energy Systems Research Unit and the Energy Technology Partnership. 

Read our press release about NERD

See our community presentation 

See the presentation made to the community event by University of Strathclyde

Contact Information

Planning and Economic Development
Opera House
8 John Finnie Street
Telephone: 01563 576790