At the opening meeting, a high-level cross-departmental team was set up to lead the centre’s development. In collaboration with key technical partners - University of Birmingham and UN Environment Programme United for Efficiency (UNEP U4E) - progress in establishing the centre has accelerated with the official endorsement of the planned activities.
ACES will help farmers market their produce quickly and efficiently – reducing food waste, boosting profits and creating jobs, and looking to improve the cold chains for vaccines and health, now recognised globally as a key challenge for COVID-19 immunisation.
ACES brings together multi-disciplinary UK and domestic expertise with business partners to develop and demonstrate ways to deliver affordable low-carbon cooling and cold-chain systems while meeting Africa’s social and economic cooling needs. Associated “Living Labs” will conduct research and offer technical assistance, demonstrations and transfer of knowledge. The first Living Lab is expected in rural Rwanda, with others to follow in additional countries.
Dr Mujawamariya Jeanne d’Arc, Rwanda Minister of Environment, said, “The Rwanda Cooling Initiative with UNEP U4E assisted the development of National Cooling Strategy in 2019, and it is now providing the foundation for ACES, which will bring together talent from across Africa to develop and deploy world-class cooling solutions. The Rwandan government supports the establishment of the centre with our partners over the months and years ahead.”
Researchers at the University of Birmingham, Cranfield University, London South Bank University and Heriot Watt University apply their rural cooling and cold chain expertise, supported by funding from the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
The project’s first cooling needs and gap assessment report is nearing completion, following in-country interviews with representatives of agricultural cooperatives and communities across Rwanda and key ministries, private companies and NGOs. The report will help guide the design of ACES by analysing energy consumption and energy sources, food and value losses, facilities and equipment, refrigerants and demand for cold chains.
The project supports the Rwandan National Agricultural Export Development Board’s (NAEB) five-year strategy to double agricultural exports by 2024-25 and significantly increase exports of aquaculture, beef and other temperature-sensitive products.