The EPSRC Manufacturing the Future theme (MtF) has recently refreshed its research priorities, with input from numerous members of the manufacturing research and innovation community. The topic of ‘sustainability and function’ has emerged as one of the theme’s new research priorities.
In 2018, MtF held a strategic retreat to explore the future manufacturing research and innovation landscape and examine future strategic opportunities.
The outputs were further developed through a series of community engagement activities, forming the basis of the MtF Strategic Priorities workshop, where the suggestion of ‘sustainable radical manufacturing technologies for resource efficiency’ as a priority area for future manufacturing research was made.
This covers design and manufacture of products to deliver the desired:
- recoverability and zero waste
- manufacturing technologies
- design for repair and disassembly for example recycling, upcycling and degradation.
Subsequent discussions with the MtF Strategic Advisory Team (SAT) and input from the Early Career Forum in Manufacturing Research (ECF) developed ‘sustainable radical manufacturing technologies for resource efficiency’ into ‘sustainability and function’. It was emphasised that a priority should be placed on advancing manufacturing research in this area.
As part of UKRI Environmental Sustainability Strategy, with the ambition to “embed sustainability in everything we do and achieving net-zero for our carbon emissions by 2040”, this priority should be reflected in all strategic investments. Therefore, a target towards net-zero should be embedded in all projects.
The research projects should be compatible with, or help to achieve, manufacturing technologies, processes and systems that make effective and efficient use of resources, leading to acceptable (even positive) environmental impacts.
The vision of the EPSRC ‘manufacturing the future’ theme is of a prosperous and productive UK, supported by a thriving research and knowledge-led manufacturing base. To enable this, our mission is to create and capture the benefits of basic research for UK manufacturing industries.
One of the theme’s priorities is ‘sustainability and function’: research to enhance understanding of how manufacturing processes, and systems or products, could be designed and manufactured to deliver desired functionality, multi-level optimisation and recoverability. The goal is to increase sustainability in manufacturing, whether via:
- less resource use
- less energy consumption
- lower carbon emissions
- less waste.
The priority also covers the development and use of tools, theories and methods for analysing or assessing sustainability in relation to manufacturing.
To deliver this priority, the aims of this sustainable manufacturing funding opportunity are to:
- reduce manufacturing resource use to just the amount required, decreasing reliance on raw materials (especially rare ones)
- encourage the re-use and integration of products and co-products in from other processes in manufacturing systems
- design products for greater efficiency throughout their lifecycle, including design for disassembly, repair, recycling or upcycling
- improve recyclability of products, and recoverability or recovery efficiency of high-value resources, including by reducing product material complexity
- reduce the environmental impact of manufacturing processes, and the impact of products to the environment throughout their lifecycle and at their end of life.
This funding opportunity will fund a portfolio of novel research that addresses one or more of the above, whilst building new capabilities and processes.
Learn about EPSRC’s portfolio and strategies (EPSRC website).
These are broad aims, and the research scope of this funding opportunity does not encompass all research that contributes to these aims. Rather, we will fund fundamental engineering and physical sciences research into manufacturing technologies and processes which fit the aims of this funding opportunity.