Transforming Foundation Industries Network+
Supporting sustainability and transformation in the Foundation Industries on the path to Net-Zero.
The foundation industries (namely glass, ceramics, metals, paper, cement and bulk chemicals) are worth £52B per annum to the UK’s economy, but account for 10% of the UK’s total CO2 emissions.
In recognition of the global and national importance of these industries, the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council has awarded £2M of funds to form the TFI Network+ with aim to assist the foundation industries to remain competitive whilst simultaneously facing challenges from environmental legislation and the drive towards net-zero carbon 2050.
The core aim of TFI Network+ is to co-create with the Foundation Industries new science and technology that can transform their sustainability and performance by coordinating and channelling a wide range of expertise throughout UK academia in themes such as:
- Energy efficiency: Energy costs in foundation industries are high, and each industry faces its own challenges to improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Through knowledge transfer and cross-fertilisation of ideas, the TFI Network+ will seek opportunities to co-create new concepts and to transfer best practice from one sector to another.
- Next generation processes: The fundamental properties of materials are often seen as a limiting factor in reducing energy and resource usage. Some foundation industries, such as metals and ceramics, are investigating new processes, but energy consumption can be reduced in all sectors by greater monitoring and digitalisation of the production process through diverse sensing and data collating capabilities.
- Manufacturing informatics: The foundation industries business model needs to transition from an historical inwardly focused supplier/customer relationship, to one that embraces the wider end-to-end supply chain. Enabling technologies, grouped under the umbrella term of ‘Industry 4.0’ or ‘digital’, are now sufficiently mature that they could facilitate a step-change in supply chain function in Foundation Industries. The TFI Network+ will investigate the use of AI and digital tools for through process modelling, including real time data capture and management.
- Circular economy: The ability to re-use, recycle or repurpose products and raw materials has significant challenges in the foundation industries, as without careful process analysis this activity can actually increase energy and material costs, or result in inferior products. We will help evaluate the properties of recycled and substitute feedstocks through improved analytical methods,develop processes that are more forgiving of feedstock quality and ensure that feedstock supplies are geopolitically secure.
- Enabling transformation: The Network+ can help create roadmaps for policies, regulations and legislation, to support transformation throughout the whole value chain and systems, to remove barriers and create markets for the adoption of more sustainable materials and technologies.