New Network+ to improve sustainability among the UK’s foundation industries

The University of Leeds will be part of a new consortium aiming to improve sustainability in the UK’s foundation industries, which account for 10 per cent of the UK’s total CO₂ emissions.

These industries, including glass, ceramics, metals, paper, cement and bulk chemicals, are worth £52bn to the UK’s economy, and produce a combined 28 million tonnes of materials per year. A new national strategy to be developed by the Network+ will support a need to reduce carbon emissions to 80 per cent below the levels that were seen in 1990 by 2050, in line with the Climate Change Act 2008.

The recent COVID-19 induced stress on global supply chains demonstrates the importance of re-use and recycling in the manufacturing sector. Therefore, it is crucial for the UK’s foundation industries to innovate in order to remain internationally competitive.

Professor Susan Bernal Lopez, from the School of Civil Engineering, is Deputy Director of the Network+ which is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

The University of Sheffield is leading the consortium of universities, including Leeds, Swansea and Manchester, comprising the network. The institutions will coordinate a unified approach to tackling these challenges by bringing together expertise and best practice across a range of academic disciplines.

The collaboration will grow by catalysing interactions across academic, industrial, regulatory and policymaking stakeholders to co-create novel solutions that transform and reinvigorate these sectors. It will underpin the UK government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and support the ISCF Transforming Foundation Industries Challenge.

In addition to workshops, knowledge transfer, outreach and dissemination, the Network+ will test concepts and guide the development of innovative outcomes by issuing calls for projects totalling £1.4m to the wider academic community.

Professor Susan Bernal Lopez said: “This Network + has the ambitious goal to bring together multidisciplinary stakeholders to identify holistic pathways enabling transformation of these industries in response to the unique challenges of our time.”

Times of crisis, while deeply unsettling, also open the opportunity to reflect and identify strategies to enable our industries and society to do better, and to be better.

Professor Susan Bernal Lopez, School of Civil Engineering

Chris McDonald, CEO of the Materials Processing Institute and Chair of the Network+ Independent Advisory Panel, said: “I am keen to work alongside the management team to help create a sense of identity and community in the foundation industries to promote our mutual goal of achieving sustainable long-term manufacturing in the United Kingdom.”

Rosanna Greenop, Senior Portfolio Manager at the EPSRC added: “The Network+ in Transforming Foundation Industries is an exciting opportunity to work with and help the foundation industries to achieve a sustainable future.”