EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Critical Resource Catalysis - CRITICAT

Lead Research Organisation: University of St Andrews
Department Name: Chemistry

Abstract

The future sustainable production of bulk and fine chemicals is an ever-increasing global challenge that requires a transformative scientific approach. We must develop new ways of efficiently exploiting valuable fossil-fuel resources and tools to exploit renewable resources such as CO2 and lignin. Catalytic methods, the heart of this CDT, are key to these transformations, offering the single most powerful and broadly applied technology for the reduction of energy demand, cost, environmental impact and toxicity. This CDT will drive forward a sustainable and resource-rich culture.
This CDT in Critical Resource Catalysis (CRITICAT) combines the catalysis research collective of St. Andrews, Edinburgh, and Heriot-Watt Universities to create a new and unique opportunity in PhD training and research. CRITICAT will allow 80+ bright minds to be challenged in a comprehensive and state-of-the-art PhD training regime in the broad remit of catalytic science, transforming them into future scientific researchers, business leaders, entrepreneurs, and policy makers. These will be people who make a difference in a technologically-led society.
Our critical mass in critical resource catalysis will accelerate training, discovery, understanding, and exploitation within catalytic chemistry. We will focus our efforts on the future of catalysis, driving new advances for environmentally sustainable economic growth and underpinning current growth in the UK chemicals sector. The economic impact in this area is huge: in 2010, an EPSRC/RSC jointly commissioned independent report showed that the UK's "upstream" chemicals industry and "downstream" chemistry-using sector contributed a combined total of £258 billion in added value to the economy in 2007, equivalent to 21% of UK GDP, and supported over 6 million UK jobs. Sustained investment in PhD training within this area will provide the highest quality employees for this sector.

The CRITICAT PhD students will be exposed to a unique training ad research environment. Extensive taught courses (delivered by CRITICAT PIs and industrial collaborators) will offer fundamental insight into homogeneous, heterogeneous, industrial and biocatalysis coupled with engineering concepts and essential techniques to showcase cutting-edge catalysis. The CRITICAT partners will develop these core courses into a foundational textbook for graduate training across catalysis using critical resources as its cornerstone that will serve as a legacy for this programme. We will expand our pedagogical innovation to all PhD graduate students at our three partner universities, providing region-wide enhanced academic provision. Continuous growth and peer-to-peer learning throughout their research efforts will create graduates who are keen to continue learning. They will be equipped with business, management, entrepreneurial and communication skills synergistic with core science knowledge and research undertakings. In this way, we will ensure that our CRITICAT students will be able to innovate, think critically, and adapt to change in any technological career. We will prepare the next generation of scientists, managers and innovators for key roles in our future society.
To support this broad developmental approach, industry and business leaders will contribute widely to CRITICAT. Industries will (i) provide scientific ideas and objectives, (ii) deliver new competencies through targeted courses ranging from entrepreneurship to intellectual property rights and (iii) provide laboratory placements to consolidate learning and exploit any scientific advances. Furthermore, our extensive collaboration with leading international academic institutions will engender PhD student mobility, expand impact and allow experiential learning. We will build on our existing public engagement frameworks to enable our students to deliver their research, impact and scientific understanding to a wide audience, exciting others and driving new scientific policy.

Planned Impact

Catalysis is an inherently transformative field and the single most powerful method to reduce cost, energy demand and ensure sustainable fine and commodity chemical manufacture. On a grander scale, we will advance the UK economy, security and health through the development and understanding of catalysis. Through an intensive training programme we will ensure optimal use and recovery of our critical resources, exploit new long-term sustainable resources and feedstocks and will make chemical manufacture fit for future generations. Above all we will develop technologies offering a step-change in resource management and utilization. Specific impacts include:
Industry: The UK is an emerging leader in chemical sustainability. Critical Resource Catalysis is thus inherent to the growth of a technology-driven UK economy. In 2007, the growing chemical industry supported 6 million jobs and 21% of the UK GDP. World-class academic researchers, a broadly educated PhD cohort, inherent industrial collaboration and a holistic training environment will deliver unique individuals and scientific outputs for the chemical industry and beyond. Over 95% of our PhD students have continued their scientific efforts, sharing expertise in postdoctoral and industry positions: we produce exceptionally valued workers. The enhanced training provision provided by this CDT ensures even greater demand. Our training is intrinsically linked to industry and private sector parties, delivering core scientific knowledge and translational skills. With expertise in delivering critical innovations to industry, CRITICAT will become the hub for business and industry collaboration, consultation and discovery in the UK and beyond.
Policymakers: Global governments are recognising how important resources are to quality of life. The UK is committed to policies that demand the development of new technologies to facilitate a sustainable lifestyle, including the decarbonisation of energy supplies and the recycling of products, in particular those which contain a critical resource. With a cohort versed in the scientific and sociological arguments surrounding these issues further equipped to tackle future scientific challenges we will supports and strengthens the policies set out by the UK government and will serve as a champion for clear policy direction in the future.
Public: Educating not only our cohort but the general public about the importance of Critical Resource Catalysis is essential. We will engage with beneficiaries, from general audiences to UK HEIs, on our finite resources, their economic impacts and the societal benefits of a sustainable chemical industry. Public science demonstrations, focusing on the chemistry and engineering of critical resources, their uses in today's leading technologies, and the exploitation of the catalytic chemical sciences in a sustainable lifestyle will be led by the cohort to provide the public with a balanced and reasoned view of our contributions. With extensive expertise in public engagement, our team of educators and leaders will drive engagement activities forward and train our cohorts to develop as broad-skilled champions of chemistry and catalysis.
Dynamic researchers: This CDT will deliver at least 80 newly qualified PhD scientists and engineers who are trained in catalysis, the key driver behind sustainable chemical technologies. The students will undertake an exceptionally broad training regime enhanced well beyond a traditional PhD programme. Combined with state-of-the-art research projects, the collaborative interactions intrinsic throughout the CDT will yield great foundational and transferable skills for both researchers and institutions. They will learn business, managerial and communication skills from bespoke training, collaborative science and industry placements. Long-term impact will be ensured through our cohorts' entry into the global workforce and our universities commitment to improved collaboration and pedagogy.

Publications

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