EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Sustainable Chemistry

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Sch of Chemistry


Sustainability is the crucial factor in the future of the UK's chemistry-using industries with all companies sharing the vision of lower carbon footprints and reduced use of precious resources. However this sustainability can only be achieved if industry can recruit the right people. This CDT addresses the shortage of PhD graduates who have the skills needed to implement sustainable technologies. We will provide co-ordinated interdisciplinary training to produce a new generation of innovative PhD scientists and engineers with the skills needed by industry. Using the strong collaboration between Chemistry and Engineering at Nottingham as a springboard, we will launch a much wider integrated partnership involving chemistry, engineering, food science, and business to create more sustainable processes and compounds for the chemistry-using industries. This approach is strongly endorsed by our industrial partnerships, developed over many years, including companies from the major chemistry-using sectors.

The demand for chemistry knowledge, skills, technologies and training will grow dramatically in the period 2015-2030 to meet the global challenges of healthcare and better medicines for an ageing population, safer agrochemicals to aid food production for an increasing population, and the need for ever smarter advanced materials for new and energy efficient technologies.

However, chemical manufacturing is demanding in terms of use of energy and natural resources, as well as its impact on the environment, and consumes far more resource than is sustainable. Hence there is a need to develop new chemical and manufacturing solutions that are safe, efficient and, above all, sustainable. Sustainability is the issue facing the entire global chemicals industry, and our vision is to train a new generation of scientists to find innovative "green" resource and energy efficient solutions that have the lowest possible environmental impact, demonstrate social responsibility, and make a positive contribution to economic growth.

Our proposed EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Sustainable Chemistry at Nottingham, will be highly interdisciplinary. It will not only capitalise on the strong links between Chemistry and Engineering, but will also reach into the Biosciences, Food Science and the Business School. The CDT builds upon our international track record in green chemistry, and will develop Nottingham's unique combination of skills and technologies in synthetic methodology, green chemistry, materials science, biotransformations, microwave technologies, food science, supply chains and business development, combined with high level commercial input through our very significant industrial involvement.

Our CDT will provide world class training and our PhD graduates will have a full understanding of the sustainability impact of their work, with consideration for its wider environmental, societal and economic benefits. Our training framework, will produce "industry ready" PhDs who will have an excellent understanding of sustainability for the chemicals sector. These industries are well aware of the major issues, and they need new solutions and a new generation of trained researcher to deliver those solutions. By engaging with industry from an early stage, the CDT will deliver PhD training that addresses these concerns.

The CDT will be based in an iconic new building, the UK's first Carbon Neutral Laboratory. This unique facility will provide a sustainable and energy efficient working environment that we hope will help inspire, motivate and ultimately deliver PhD graduates with a much better set of skills to minimise environmental impact and build sustainability into their work. The CDT will also serve as a global hub to visiting researchers wishing to develop expertise in sustainable chemistry, and to engage the public through Nottingham's unrivalled outreach activities such as the The Periodic Table of Videos.

Planned Impact

This CDT will have a positive impact in the following areas:

PEOPLE. The primary focus is people and training. Industry needs new approaches to reach their sustainability targets and this is driving an increasing demand for highly qualified PhD graduates to lead innovation and manage change in the area of chemicals production. CDT based cohort training will provide industry ready scientists with the required technical competencies and drive to ensure that the sector retains its lead position in both innovation and productivity. In partnership with leading chemical producers and users, we will provide world class training to satisfy the changing needs of tomorrow's chemistry-using sector. Through integrated links to our Business School we will maximise impact by delivering dynamic PhD graduates who are business aware.

ECONOMY. Sustainability is the major issue facing the global chemical industry. Not only is there concern for our environment, there is also is a strong economic driver. Shareholders place emphasis on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index that tracks the performances of the sector and engenders competition. As a result, major companies have set ambitious targets to lower their carbon footprints, or even become carbon neutral. GSK CEO Sir Andrew Witty states that "we have a goal to reduce our emissions and energy use by 45% compared with 2006 levels on a per unit sales basis... " Our CDT will help companies meet these challenges by producing the new chemistries, processes and people that are the key to making the step changes needed.

SOCIETY. The diverse range of products manufactured by the chemical-using industries is vital to maintain a high quality of life in the UK. Our CDT will have a direct impact by ensuring a supply of people and new knowledge to secure sustainability for the benefit of all. The role of chemistry is often hidden from the public view and our CDT will provide a platform to show chemical sciences in a positive light, and to demonstrate the importance of engineering and applications across biosciences and food science.
The "green and sustainable" agenda is now firmly fixed in the public consciousness, our CDT will be an exemplar of how scientists and engineers are providing solutions to very challenging scientific and technical problems, in an environmentally benign manner, for the benefit of society. We will seek sustainable solutions to a wide range of problems, whilst working in sustainable and energy efficient facilities. This environment will engender a sustainability ethos unique to the UK. The CNL will not only serve as a base for the CDT but also as a hub for science communication.
Public engagement is a crucial component of CDT activities; we will invite input and discussion from the public via lectures, showcases and exhibition days. The CNL will form a hub for University open days and will serve as a soft interface to give school children and young adults the opportunity to view science from the inside. Through Dr Sam Tang, public awareness scientist, we have significant expertise in delivering outreach across the social spectrum, and she will lead our activities and ensure that the CDT cohorts engage to realise the impact of science on society. Martyn Poliakoff, in his role as Royal Society Foreign Secretary, will ensure that our CDT dovetails with UK science policy.

KNOWLEDGE. In addition to increasing the supply of highly trained people, the results of the PhD research performed in our CDT will have a major impact on knowledge. Our student cohorts will tackle "the big problems" in sustainable chemistry, and via our industrial partners we will ensure this knowledge is applied in industry, and publicised through high level academic outputs. Our knowledge-based activities will drive innovation and economic activity, realising impact through creation of new jobs and securing the future.


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