EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Sustainable Materials and Manufacturing (EngD)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: WMG


EPSRC's EngD was successfully modernised by WMG in 2011 with radical ideas on how high-level skills should be implemented to address the future needs of manufacturing companies within the UK and globally. In a continual rise to the challenge of a low environmental impact future, our new proposed Centre goes a step further, delivering a future generation of manufacturing business leaders with high level know-how and research experience that is essential to compete in a global environment defined by high impact and low carbon.
Our proposed Centre spans the area of Sustainable Materials and Manufacturing. It will cover a wide remit of activity necessary to bring about long term real world manufacturing impacts in critical UK industries. We will focus upon novel research areas including the harnessing of biotechnology in manufacturing, sustainable chemistry, resource efficient manufacturing and high tech, low resource approaches to manufacturing. We will also develop innovative production processes that allow new feedstocks to be utilised, facilitate dematerialisation and light weighting of existing approaches or enable new products to be made. Research will be carried into areas including novel production technologies, additive layer manufacturing, net shape and near-net shape manufacturing.
We will further deliver materials technologies that allow the substitution of traditional materials with novel and sustainable alternatives or enable the utilisation of materials with greater efficiency in current systems. We will also focus upon reducing the inputs (e.g. energy and water) and impacting outputs (e.g. CO2 and effluents) through innovative process and product design and value recovery from wastes.
Industry recognises there is an increasing and time-critical need to turn away from using non-sustainable manufacturing feed-stocks and soon we will need to move from using processes that are perceived publically, and known scientifically, to be environmentally detrimental if we are to sustain land/water resources and reduce our carbon footprint. To achieve this, UK PLC needs to be more efficient with its resources, developing a more closed-loop approach to resource use in manufacturing whilst reducing the environmental impact of associated manufacturing processes. We will need to train a whole new generation of doctoral level students capable of working across discipline and cultural boundaries who, whilst working with industry on relevant TRL 1-5 research, can bring about these long term changes. Our Centre will address industrially challenging issues that enable individuals and their sponsoring companies to develop and implement effective low environmental impact solutions that benefit the 'bottom line'. Research achievements and enhanced skills capabilities in Sustainable Materials and Manufacturing will help insure businesses against uncertainty in the supply of materials and price volatility in global markets and enable them to use their commitment to competitively differentiate themselves.

Planned Impact

There are seven principal groups of beneficiaries for our new EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Sustainable Materials and Manufacturing :

1. Collaborating companies and organisations, who will gain privileged access to the unique concentration of research knowledge and skills available at the Centre through active participation in doctoral research projects. In the Centre we will explore innovative ideas in conjunction with business partners, end users and the research councils. Showcase events and promotion of R&D outcomes through other means (e.g. White Papers) will offer opportunities to a much broader spectrum of potentially collaborating companies and other organisations. The supporting companies will benefit from cross-sector learning opportunities and:
a) Specific innovations within the project that make a significant impact on the company.
b) A team member who can provide rigour within a real environment and encourage others to do the same.
c) A leader able to work at a global level.
d) Increased collaboration with academia.

2. Early-stage investors, who will gain access to commercial opportunities that have been validated through proof-of-concept.

3. Academics at the partner universities and wider institutions, who will benefit from collaborative research and exploitation opportunities in our new Centre. Exchange visits made possible by the Centre will undoubtedly lead to a wider spectrum of research, educational and exploitation collaborations.

4. REs, who will establish their reputations as part of the Centre. Training and experiences within the Centre will increase their awareness of such important issues as IP identification, commercialisation opportunities and engagement with the public.

5. Taught students at the partner universities and other institutions, who will benefit from incorporation of the collaborative R&D outputs in educational content and the feedback of 'industrial' relevance from the organisations exploiting the knowledge.

6. The Universities of Warwick, Cranfield and Exeter who will enhance their international profile. In addition to the immediate gains such as high quality academic publications and presentations during the course of the Centre, the University's gains from the collaboration with industry that will continue long after the participants graduate. This is shown by the
a) Follow-on research activities in related areas.
b) Willingness of past graduates to:
i) Act as advocates of the EngD programme - many new participants are being encouraged and supported by our graduates.
ii) Participation in the Industrial Steering Group of our proposed new Centre.
iii) Act as mentors to current REs.

7. Citizens of the UK. Since we have identified key fields in sustainable materials and manufacturing technology which are of current strategic importance to the country and will demonstrate the route by which these will impact our lives. Our current EngD Centres have shown considerable impact on policy makers as evidenced in numerous events held within Westminster and EPSRC. Our proposed centre will continue to give this benefit. We have built into the Centre activities to develop wider competences in the RE in:
a) Communication - presentations, video, journal paper, workshop.
b) Exploitation - business plan and exploitation route for research.
c) Public Understanding - science ambassador, schools event, website, Wikipedia.


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