The EPSRC circular economy theme aims to support and drive research and innovation relevant to the transition to a circular economy across the council’s remit.
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) aims to actively support the engineering and physical sciences (EPS) research, innovation and training needed to enable a transition to a more circular economy and the significant benefits this will deliver for both society and the planet.
To achieve this, EPSRC works across its remit, through specific activities but also through existing theme and programme structures to encourage considerations of circularity, and support research which will directly enable it.
We must embed consideration of and designing for circularity in research and training across the innovation landscape now, so that the systems, technologies and tools developed to address key priorities – such as the climate crisis and enhancing population health – consider whole lifecycle costs and utilise the resources in the system as efficiently as possible. If we simply consider circularity in isolation at the end of the innovation cycle, we will increase overall costs and won’t fully achieve the benefits to the environment or to health.
Circular economy is managed as part of the Manufacturing and the Circular Economy theme. It is relevant to all EPS researchers at all career stages, but will also be of interest to business partners and interdisciplinary researchers in other council remits.
EPSRC has run a number of engagement activities related to the area in recent years – including a cross-advisory board workstream – to inform priorities, related interventions, and overall strategy. This engagement will continue through community interactions specific to the theme as well as through engagements and activities led by other themes.
Achieving a circular economy at scale requires interdisciplinary approaches and the involvement of industry, government and the public from the outset. The EPSRC theme therefore works very closely with colleagues from other councils, including the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Innovate UK, as well as government partners, to develop cross-UKRI activities, funding opportunities and strategies.
- the Plastics Research Innovation Fund, led by EPSRC
- the National Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Research (NICER) Strategic Priorities Fund programme, led by EPSRC
- the Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging (SSPP) challenge UKRI Challenge Fund programme, led by NERC and Innovate UK
- the GCRF Plastics Programme, led by NERC and Innovate UK.