Students team up with whisky firm to take on Fuel Change challenge

Seventeen UHI Inverness students are taking on the Fuel Change ‘Challenge Programme’ to solve real business problems around sustainability and to provide a new perspective on how to deliver a net zero future.

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Brandon Platt and Nadia Johal

The challenge, which has been set by whisky makers Whyte & Mackay, based in Invergordon, will last for 18 weeks during which the 17 students will focus on three key steps:

  • Discovering and understanding the journey that whisky makes from acorn to cask, across the breadth of whisky making facilities at Invergordon Distillery.
  • Learning about the practical application of sustainability in a leading Scottish business
  • Through collaboration, learning how to develop creative solutions that help improve environmental practices at the site

This Fuel Change Challenge is the 17th since the initiative launched in 2020 and is focused on engaging the next generation workforce to drive a positive transition to Net Zero. It has already attracted partnerships with some of the most critical industries from energy, transport and construction.

Jen Tempany, Chief Operating Officer, said: “At Fuel Change we believe true engagement of the next generation will drive a positive transition to net zero. The Fuel Change Challenge is about systematically creating a future workforce who are equipped with the skills, knowledge and behaviours needed to positively drive that transition.

 “It’s the organisations that are investing in their employees and creatively tackling sustainability issues that are going to have the most success in years to come. We partner with employers and education providers to provide 16-24-year-olds with the opportunity to take on a real-world climate challenge within a business. They’ll work as a team to find a sustainable solution which can be adapted for the long-term benefit of the business. 

“Our challenges are having a huge impact on those taking part. So far, over 2000 participants have gone through the challenge programme gaining experience across a variety of industries and sectors, developing themselves and in many cases gaining promotion or even employment, as well as having the opportunity to influence how businesses in Scotland adapt to meet the climate challenge. I look forward to seeing the progress which the students make with a leading Scottish brand.”

Lisa Munro, Project Engineer on behalf of Whyte and Mackay, said:

“Whyte and Mackay have been fortunate to participate the Fuel Change challenge at COP26 in Glasgow. This new challenge is our first opportunity to invite a fresh perspective on how we fuel our energy transition here in the beautiful Highlands.

"As whisky makers we laid out our vision for a sustainable future in The Whyte and Mackay Green Print. Invergordon Distillery is nestled alongside the Cromarty Firth, Scotland’s great natural waterway, which the First Minster announced as a Green Port. It is an exciting time to be leading the way in sustainability here, and the Fuel Change project is a fantastic initiative that will shine a light on how we deliver a green future."

Professor Chris O'Neil, Principal and Chief Executive of UHI Inverness, said: “UHI Inverness is pleased to join Whyte and Mackay in the first Fuel Change Spotlight Challenge in the Highlands. This is a fantastic opportunity for our Engineering, Built Environment and Science students to create solutions which incorporate their developing technical skills with sustainable, circular economic and net zero understanding.

“With our drive towards Net Zero by 2040 and the growing local opportunities in developing green technologies, we cannot wait to see what our students develop with Fuel Change over the next few months. 

“We at UHI Inverness are pleased to be working in collaboration with a creative and imaginative partner, such as Whyte and Mackay.”

Mechanical electrical engineering student, Nadia Johal, 26 from Inverness, is taking part in the Challenge. Nadia said: “I remember hearing that Waste is a Design flaw, and if I was to sum up what drives my love of engineering, it’s designing solutions to difficult problems. When this opportunity appeared, I knew it would be a great chance to challenge myself towards using my technical experience and further my skills in the circular economy and sustainability, toward solving a real world problem. With the support of Fuel Change and UHI Inverness, I believe that my team and I will innovate at Invergordon Distillery, and really push a new brilliant green solution to their carbon challenge!”

SVQ student Brandon Platt, 18, from Inverness,who is also taking part in the Challenge, said:This opportunity to dive into a project which incorporates the circular economy in my Engineering learning with a big local company (we all know Whyte and Mackay!) was something I couldn’t pass up. I want to create new solutions to the problems we are facing in the Highlands, and I think everyone my age wants to make the world a better place, that’s why I went into engineering and this project is that chance!”

The students will present their proposed solutions to the Whyte and Mackay Distillery leadership team in late April.

Issued by Fuel Change/Whye and Mackay