The key aims of new foundation industries projects

Industrial Welder With Torch

New technology, waste reduction and energy efficiency are the key aims of projects receiving new funding from UKRI’s foundation industries programme.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has today announced details of the range of innovative new projects that have successfully secured £8 million of funding. The aim is to improve the productivity and competitiveness of the UK’s foundation industry companies and their supply chains.

Through its large collaborative research and development competition, UKRI’s Transforming Foundation Industries Challenge tasked research and innovation consortia with developing technology to reduce energy and resource inefficiencies across the industries of:

  • glass
  • cement
  • paper
  • chemicals
  • ceramics
  • metals.

Reducing carbon emissions

The aim is to reduce carbon emissions. Designed to deliver cross-sector benefits, these projects bring together businesses with their supply chains and equipment providers, to work on common challenges.

Successful projects in this competition include the Ultromex’s Carbacem project, which tackles waste in the aluminium industry. This not only prevents hazardous waste from entering landfill, but also provides secondary resources for cement production including carbon, alumina and silicates that can help reduce its environmental footprint.

Axchem’s paper-focused Hifib project also aims to address demand for sustainably produced, lighter, stronger paper and board, which would reduce:

  • the quantity and weight of packaging
  • transportation costs
  • carbon emissions.

Meeting new market challenges

Bruce Adderley, director of UKRI’s Transforming Foundation Industries challenge, said:

Collaboration is the lynchpin for innovation across these industries. The opportunities for mutual benefits, re-use of by-products and the exchange of knowledge and skills will be essential for ensuring their journey towards improving efficiency and productivity to meet new market challenges.

We have seen from the quality of applications just how new technology and a commitment to combined thinking can work together to address some of the key issues affecting the sector.

Being able to reduce energy use and carbon outputs obviously has a direct impact on crucial net zero targets. Equally important are the potential efficiencies in processes, materials and systems that will not only present further environmental benefits, but also bring these industries to a move competitive footing for the future.

Further information

About the Transforming Foundation Industries challenge

The Transforming Foundation Industries programme through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund will help energy-intensive businesses to share expertise and come up with radical new innovations to help reduce their carbon footprint.

The programme will inject significant new public and industry innovation funding into the foundation industries, helping us deliver against our vision of a cutting edge, innovative and sustainable industrial sector. £66 million will be provided by the government and £83 million will come from industry.

The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) brings together the UK’s world-leading research base with our best businesses to transform how we live, work and move around. It will put the UK in the best position to take advantage of future market opportunities.

About the large collaborative research and development project winners

AI6S: AI lean six-sigma process optimisation for energy efficiency and waste reduction in foundation industries

Project lead: Hybrid Ltd

Location: London and north-east

Total funding: £1.4 million

AI6S will develop a novel toolkit for process optimisation in foundation industries, enabling process efficiency improvements. This will result in:

  • reduced energy consumption
  • reduced waste
  • improved ability to meet challenging (and commercially attractive) specifications and short turnaround times.

Scalable AM rule creation and dissemination (SAMRCD)

Project lead: Authentise

Location: various UK locations

Total funding: £1.7 million

To optimise when, where, which, and how to implement additive manufacturing, we must be able to assess its environmental impact and compare this to conventional manufacturing processes like CNC machining.

The development of the tools proposed within the SAMCRD project would make a profound impact in energy reduction. It will also accelerate additive manufacturing as a viable sustainable production process as part of the UK’s manufacturing capabilities.

Computational formulation technique for developing resource and energy efficient functional coatings for foundation industry

Project lead: Pilkington Technology Management Ltd (PTML)

Location: north-west

Total funding: £1.5 million

This project will take a whole supply chain view on the readiness of digital technologies to augment and enhance the traditional formulation process. Also, the ability to capture the knowledge of the experts in the process in terms of manufacture of constituents, application process, through a the digital-first process.

This consortium, including metals, glass, bulk and speciality chemicals supply chain will seek to demonstrate a digital led approach to preparing a formulation for spray deposition on two different kinds of substrate systems:

  • one for the glass sector
  • one for steel.

While we will focus on antimicrobial coatings, our approach will derisk similar approaches with many different:

  • products
  • substrates
  • application mechanisms.

This will bring together national centres of expertise with industry partners. Overall, this will enable us to produce high value products at lower cost and with lower energy consumption.

CARBACEM: creating valuable secondary resources for cement production from hazardous wastes produced by aluminium production, generating sustainable, resource efficiencies for both

Project lead: Ultromex Ltd

Location: north-west

Total funding: £1.3 million

The project:

  • solves a difficult waste problem for the aluminium industry
  • keeps hazardous waste out of landfill
  • provides a large supply of secondary resources for cement production, including carbon, alumina, silicates and mineralising agents to reduce its environmental footprint.

The project has the potential significant positive impacts for the economics and resource efficiencies of both industries, with massive environmental and sustainability benefits for society.

Developing industrial symbiosis using UK waste clay resources for new generation building materials

Project lead: Mineral Products Association Ltd

Location: various UK locations

Total funding: £1.4 million

In this project, waste derived clay from several different sources will be characterised and tested for the properties useful for cement and concrete production. Waste derived clays will be prepared using two different heating methods to enable comparisons of the resulting properties. These methods are a rotary kiln, a commonly available technology and ‘flash heating’, a new and innovative heating technique not yet trialled in the UK.

Re-imagining industrial by-products to create a circular approach in the steel and cement industries

Project lead: Material Evolution Ltd

Location: Wales and north-west

Total funding: £1.8 million

This research proposes a resource and energy efficiency opportunity in the cement industry, which is the main carbon emitter within concrete. This is by utilising industrial by-products from the steel industry to create a new cement and establish a circular economy between these two foundation industries.

Material Evolution’s technology helps the cement industry move from being one of the largest contributors of embodied carbon, towards being the solution that actually eliminates carbon from the concrete manufacturing process.

By using our patented technology, we transform the cement’s chemistry to make concrete that is superior in terms of economics, strength, and sustainability. This will allow manufacturers to grow their business whilst shrinking their carbon footprint and rapidly decarbonise two foundation industries using a circular approach.

HiFib: innovative fibre technology for sustainable papermaking

Project lead: Axchem International Ltd

Location: various UK locations

Total funding: £1.1 million

The project aims to address an identified commercial demand for sustainably produced, lighter, stronger paper and board. This is highly desirable because their use reduces the quantity and weight of packaging and the associated transportation costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

The objective of the project is to build on an ultrasonication process that can produce pulp suitable for the production of lighter, stronger products at the scale required by the industry. Ultrasonication of pulp produces highly fibrillated cellulose fibres (HFCFs) that contribute to the strength of the finished product.

Top image:  Credit: Obradovic, Getty Images

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