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Making UK process industry more sustainable

25 September 2012

Over £7 million of funding has been made available by the UK government to undertake research that could lead to the development and commercialisation of innovative approaches to sustainable manufacturing for the process industry. The funding will be shared by around 70 UK companies, universities and research organisations.

The Technology Strategy Board (www.innovateuk.org) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (www.epsrc.ac.uk) will invest the funding in 17 major research and development projects which aim to develop innovative process technologies to improve sustainability in sectors including food and drink, chemicals, construction and aerospace.
Commenting on the research plans, Iain Gray, chief executive of the Technology Strategy Board, said: “Innovation in sustainability is vital for the continued success and growth of the UK process industry and this research and development will lead to innovations in manufacturing that will improve economic performance, benefit the environment and have a positive social impact.

Professor David Delpy, chief executive of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), said: “Supporting sustainable processes in manufacturing is how we can grow, both in our knowledge and economically. These projects and businesses developing sustainable processes will, in turn, deliver new opportunities for further research as well as the financial and environmental returns. Our partnership with the Technology Strategy Board is about ensuring that sustainable development is engrained from laboratory to shop floor.”
The seventeen collaborative R&D projects will be led by C-Tech Innovation Ltd, Centre for Process Innovation Ltd, Dynamic Extractions Ltd, Environmental Pulp Products Ltd, GlaxoSmithKline, Imerys (UK) Ltd, Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd (an AkzoNobel company), Industrial Microwave Systems Ltd, Johnson Matthey Ltd, Perceptive Engineering Ltd, PhosphonicS Ltd, Plant Integrity Ltd, Procter & Gamble Technical Centres Ltd, Scionix Ltd, Syrris Ltd, Unilever and Yorkshire Process Technology Ltd.

The research and development projects include:
• The development, by C-Tech Innovation and their partners, of a low-energy baking system based on a two-step process consisting of an accelerated conventional baking stage followed by a novel post-baking cooling step. This reduction in baking time could reduce the overall energy consumption of the sector by 20%.

• A collaborative project led by Imperial Chemical Industries involves the development of novel approaches to reducing, and preferably eliminating, solvents in paints. The partnership (between ICI Paints, High Force Research, Durham University and the University of Manchester) aims to develop new solutions and products, and commercialise the results.

• Scionix, working with the University of Leicester and Rolls-Royce, will research and develop a novel process for electropolishing aerospace castings using ionic liquids which are said to be easier to work with, less toxic, contain no strong acids and operate at much higher energy efficiency.

• A collaborative project led by Industrial Microwave Systems that aims to develop a cost-effective, continuous, conveyor-based, solid-state microwave-based system for the production of low-carbon concretes incorporating higher levels of waste products, with lower energy use. This will enable concrete manufacturers to increase the quantities of low carbon cement they use.

Sustainable manufacturing is of critical importance across the process industries, including the bulk & fine chemical, pharmaceutical & biotech, agrochemical, coatings & lubricants, home & personal care, food & drink, mining, water, construction materials, oil and fuel industries. In all these sectors, there is a drive for faster, more effective product design and manufacture in order for the UK to become more globally competitive.


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