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Low Carbon Heat - Innovation Needs Assessment


This report presents the findings of research conducted by the Building Research Establishment Limited (BRE) on behalf of Scottish Enterprise to identify the innovation needs of low carbon heat technologies. The study provides an innovation evidence base to help Scottish Enterprise understand innovation needs when developing potential new schemes to support businesses to capitalise on low carbon heat opportunities relevant in the Scottish context.


The study consisted of desk-based research coupled with one-to-one interviews with external stakeholders.


This study has identified that for heat pumps there is opportunity to improve the user experience (e.g. by incorporating smart monitoring and control systems), to improve efficiency (e.g. via better design and/or improved operation and maintenance) and to reduce the overall environmental impact (e.g. by developing refrigerants with low global warming potential). The development of smart monitoring systems for improved energy management, diagnostics and user engagement is another key innovation need. There are a wide range of opportunities to overcome the barriers associated with the high cost of district heating networks (DHNs). Improved design, deployment of low temperature systems, new installation and piping techniques and approaches, improved heat interface unit solutions, increased use of waste heat and renewable sources, deployment of demand side management and forecasting solutions, and development of knowledge exchange platforms were all identified as areas where technical innovation could contribute to the development of more efficient district heat network systems. This research also identifies that there is potential to develop innovative thermal storage systems (sensible, latent and thermochemical), implementing new approaches and using new phase changing materials (PCM) to help increase efficiency and reduce cost. The research also highlights that waste heat (e.g. from industrial processes or commercial buildings) can be utilised in a wide range of buildings if suitable heat recovery and transmission processes can be developed and deployed cost effectively. There are potential opportunities to capitalise upon waste heat from a range of sources e.g. power stations, old mine water, waste treatment plants, distilleries, and buildings with high cooling demand such as supermarkets and data centres.


This study has identified the key innovation needs that can be considered by Scottish Enterprise when developing innovation calls. This study shows that there is a need to develop user-centred, smart and integrated solutions in order to maximise the benefits of existing low carbon heating technologies. In addition to the technological innovation needs identified, the study suggests that the implementation of effective user and public engagement approaches, along with an integrated approach to energy efficiency, are essential to delivering innovation in low carbon heat.

Author BRE Scotland
Published Year 2022
Report Type Research
  • Sectors
  • Enterprise
    Support to existing/growth businesses