Sustainable chemical technologies to accelerate net-zero

Article by Amanda Jasi

LED by the University of Bath, UK, a major new collaboration between academia and industry seeks to use sustainable chemical technologies to accelerate the UK’s transition to net-zero carbon emissions.

The new £17m (US$24.1m) Innovation Centre for Applied Sustainable Technologies (iCAST) has an ambition to become the go-to research and development (R&D) and collaboration hub for companies working on clean growth technologies. It will facilitate partnerships with critical mass academic strength to enable scaleup and commercial delivery and to generate economic impact, build supply chains, and create jobs and green growth in the UK and overseas.

The new centre’s research will focus on four core programmes, including bio-based-feedstocks, sustainable chemical productions systems, sustainable engineering materials, and plastics as part of a circular economy.

By accelerating the transition of sustainable chemical technology research, the collaboration is expected to help tackle global challenges of climate emergency, sustainable development, and plastics pollutions.

iCAST will bring together industry with expertise, including at the Universities of Bath and Oxford. Also involved are the National Composites Centre and the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) of the Catapult Network’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult. Catapult Network involves nine technology and innovation “Catapults” spanning more than 40 locations across the UK, including the High Value Manufacturing Catapult which is helping to develop new manufacturing technology to grow the UK’s advanced manufacturing value add.

The collaboration also includes innovation experts at UK university partnership SETsquared and Local Enterprise Partnerships, which are local business-led partnerships, as well as investors.

It builds on a successful partnership between Bath’s Centre for Sustainable and Circular Technologies (CSCT) and SETsquared to deliver acceleration hubs and scaleup programmes in the region. CSCT carries out research, training, and outreach in sustainable and circular technologies and will host the new facility.

According to the collaborators, funding from the Research England Development Fund is key to unlocking world-class resources and fundamental research expertise of partners to deliver commercial success in cutting-edge sustainable technologies. Part of national funding agency UK Research and Innovation, Research England supports projects that aid development and interaction of the UK’s higher education research and knowledge exchange.

Matthew Davidson, iCAST Director and Whorrod Professor of Sustainable Chemical Technologies at Bath, said: “There is currently a translation gap between publicly-funded investment into fundamental research and its deployment by UK companies.

“iCAST will address this gap by enabling companies to easily invest in R&D in a collaborative and agile environment and by providing specialist business support for innovations to be deployed commercially.”

“[The] funding from UKRI will enable iCAST to achieve sustainability and become established as the ‘go-to’ place in the UK for innovation in sustainable technologies.”

Ian White, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Bath, commented: “iCAST will cement our links with existing academic and industrial partners and put Bath on the map strategically as a centre of expertise for knowledge exchange with industry to solve real-world global challenges in sustainability.”

Paddy Bradley, CEO of Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “This is truly an exciting collaboration and couldn’t come at a more crucial time.

“iCAST is a significant step forward in reaching the goal of not only changing the way the world thinks but also how we behave to prevent further damage to our natural environment.

“We need business, academia and technology to harmonise as we advance towards a genuinely circular economy and iCAST is a partnership opportunity allowing us to meet today’s challenges.”

The iCAST partnership includes more than 45 member companies ranging from spinouts, high growth SMEs, and multinational corporates. These companies include Unilever, Wessex Water, Corbion, Total Corbion PLA, and Recycling Technologies.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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