Cranfield University is leading a research consortium examining how the foundation industries can grow and develop while helping achieve the net zero 2050 environmental targets.
TransFIRe (Transforming Foundation Industries Research and Innovation hub) was developed in response to the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) call to transform the foundation industries (chemicals, cement, ceramics, glass, metals and paper).
These industries produce 75% of all materials in the UK economy, and the University said they are worth £52 billion to the UK economy. They also produce 28 million tonnes of materials per year, about 10% of the UK’s CO2 emissions.
TransFIRe is led by Professor Mark Jolly, director of manufacturing at Cranfield University, and includes investigators from Bangor, Cambridge, Cardiff, Durham, Edinburgh, Exeter, Leeds, Northumbria, Sheffield Hallam and York universities and the British Geological Survey.
Professor Mark Jolly said:
“The foundation industries play a vital role in the UK economy but there is so much more we can do to help them grow and develop into cleaner and more sustainable businesses.
“With progress in AI and digital manufacturing there is a real opportunity to transform these industries through the implementation of new technologies.
“For too long, the foundation industries have been dismissed as too difficult to clean, too difficult to modernise and too difficult to diversify.
“TransFIRe shows that the commitment is there from academia, industry and Government to take on those challenges and transform the foundation industries that have for generations played such a vital role in the UK economy.”
UKRI through the ISCF has allocated £4.7 million for three years to work with universities, research organisations and industry, led by Cranfield University, to assist with technology development and transfer, new business developments and new opportunities in materials and technologies to help to achieve the net zero 2050 target.
TransFIRe is a consortium of 20 researchers from 12 institutions, 49 companies and 14 non-governmental organisations related to the sectors, with expertise across the foundation industries as well as energy mapping, life cycle and sustainability, industrial symbiosis, computer science, AI and digital manufacturing, management and business, social sciences and technology transfer.
This programme will develop a self-sustaining hub of expertise to support the foundation industries’ transformation into non-polluting, resource-efficient, modern, competitive businesses, working in harmony with the communities in which they are situated, providing attractive places to be employed with unparalleled equality, diversity and inclusion performance.
Bruce Adderley, challenge director of UKRI’s ‘Transforming Foundation Industries Challenge’, said:
“There are so many opportunities, challenges and processes that cross over between the different foundation industries, so having a central resource to pool ideas and solutions can help remove some of the inefficiencies and hurdles to innovation that exist in different parts of the sector.”