Critical Elements and Materials Network (CrEAM)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Metallurgy and Materials

Abstract

As the global population advances towards 9 billion, the pressure on natural resources becomes ever more intense. The emergence of new technologies which also depend heavily on scarce elements and materials puts further pressure on the Earth's resources. The EPSRC CrEAM network will tackle the problems of supply and use of materials deemed critical to UK industrial strategy by bringing together leading academics and industrial experts from across the entire critical materials supply chain.
The UK supply of key elements and materials has come under increasing pressure in recent years and is totally dependent on imports from resource-dominant countries and regions such as China, Russia and Africa. These elements and materials play a vital role in industrial sectors important to the UK such as automotive, aerospace and renewable energy technologies. The UK has previously considered its materials strategy as part of the European Union, however, with the recent Brexit decision, it is imperative that UK creates a blueprint for securing a long-term stable supply of materials deemed vital to its industrial strategy. By creating and hosting a series of both broad-topic and subject-specific meetings, the proposed network will catalyse the formation of important strategic collaborations, make policy recommendations to UK government, and propose a comprehensive 'UK Elements Strategy'.
The overarching aim of the CrEAM network is to safeguard UK industry against shortages of strategic/critical elements and materials by bringing together leading UK academics from a wide range of disciplines alongside the key industrial users, to develop strategies to protect the UK supply of these materials and, where possible, develop alternatives. The CrEAM network will raise awareness of critical materials and supply chain issues, and identify and connect UK research and development activities on selected strategic/critical materials to strengthen possibilities for multi- and interdisciplinary research. This research will help to protect UK commercial interests dependent on materials supply by connecting expertise throughout the supply chain to work on solutions to the problems identified.
The objectives of the network are based on organising interdisciplinary meetings across the entire critical materials supply chain. These meetings will provide a forum to bring together specialists from across the entire UK supply chain in critical materials to develop strategies to alleviate supply risks of these elements and materials, which are essential in a wide range of current and emerging technologies. The initial focus of the network will be determined by the most pressing supply chain issues faced by UK industry and will begin to broaden as supply chain and industry priorities evolve.
Minutes and presentations from these meetings will be disseminated via the CrEAM network website along with biannual updates and reports. Brochures and news articles will be distributed to raise awareness of the critical materials agenda and is well placed to acts as a focus for local activities across all regions of the UK. The outcome from the meetings will be to initiate new, collaborative UK-based activities and research projects to create and develop effective substitution and replacement technologies for critical materials, and to encourage creation of cyclic use of critical materials from end of life products to address critical supply issues.
The most important objective of the network will be to create a coherent 'UK Elements Strategy' document for UK Government, including policy and funding recommendations to ensure a responsible, secure and environmentally efficient supply of critical materials vital to UK industry for both short and long term stability. As the UK prepares to leave the EU, it is imperative that a strong plan is put in place to protect the industrial strategy, which is highly dependent on import of critical materials.

Planned Impact

The CrEAM network will aim to have a strong influence on UK policy. A coherent 'UK Elements Strategy' document to be presented at month 18 and updated at 36 will be presented to UK government as a result of consultations with leading academics and industrial experts across the entire supply chain. The UK Elements Strategy will include a review of the scope of the critical materials scene, analysing where interventions are, and are not, required. Recommendations will be proposed for future research funding calls, along with suggested trade legislation to promote the circular economy and strengthen and secure supply of critical materials for the UK. Briefing papers on critical materials and supply issues will be made available to the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, relevant Parliamentary Committees and to the policy units in the Government Office for Science, Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and the Department for Education.
EPSRC funding of the CrEAM network will provide added value across a wide range of UK economic, academic, commercial and societal activities. A CrEAM network branded stand and brochure will be created within the first 6 months of the network for display at scientific/technical events to increase awareness of this subject. Subsets of this material will also be used for display in schools and network member premises.
A comprehensive internet and literature survey of UK academia, industry, funding bodies and government offices active in the use, development and exploitation of critical materials will be carried out. The data collected will be used to define subjects and mailing lists for future meetings, possible webinars hosted by leading industry experts or academics, and establish interest in short courses and postgraduate student sponsorships. The key results from this survey will be published on the network website, social media and distributed via the established mailing lists in order to encourage further participation from research groups and their collaborators. The website will also act as a bulletin board providing important updates on critical materials and sector specific funding calls and job opportunities.
Network meetings and workshops will be open to members of funding bodies such as UKRI, WRAP and Innovate UK, as well as parliament and government officers from BEIS etc. These organisations will be encouraged to interact during the informal networking and the structured discussion and debate sections, as well as invited to present at relevant meetings where appropriate. The outcomes of these meetings will be used to recommend future UKRI funding calls in critical materials and relevant sectors. Presentations and minutes from the meetings will be made available on the CrEAM network website to encourage further discussions and more focussed, smaller meetings to be set up as a result. The strong connection between academia and industry will be vital to ensure funding and collaboration agreements can be arranged and maintained as a result of the network meetings.
The CrEAM network will also creating university level teaching media to promote high quality training in issues surrounding critical materials supply and use. This will include online lectures made available by network members to download as well as educational YouTube videos and discussion. Information on teaching materials developed in current and recent projects will be collected as part of the literature survey and a metadata list of these will be published on the website and sent to teaching resource websites such as the Times Educational Supplement and The Guardian Teacher Network etc. Regular press releases will be produced for popular science magazines highlighting critical material issues and themes emerging from network meetings. Regular updates of network news items will be communicated to BBC production teams such as 'The Naked Scientists' and 'BBC Materials World'.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The Cream network set up a national policy commission on technology-critical materials. Critical materials are those which are economically important but at risk of short supply. This included rare earth magnets which are used in wind turbines, electric cars and electronics, cobalt and nickel which are used in batteries, platinum group metals which are used in catalysts and fuel cells and rhenium and tantalum which are used jet engines. We have held 6 evidence gathering sessions on supply chains, primary extraction, the circular economy and international perspectives with 8-10 speakers at each event. A national policy commission document has been created (161 pages) and presented to members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords entitled "Securing Technology-Critical Metals for Britain". The policy commission came up with 12 recommendations which are listed below -
1) The UK should create a single body responsible for developing strategic access to technology-critical metals and effective inter-departmental collaboration at government level. This body should link the primary and secondary markets for technology-critical metals, and develop and oversee, a full UK technology-critical metals strategy.
2) Seek opportunities to diversify its access to primary resources of critical materials, through resource diplomacy. This should form part of any new trade negotiations.
3) Consider measures to accelerate projects that seek to develop its indigenous sources of technology-critical metals (lithium, tungsten), including updating the regulatory environment.
4) Actively attract and provide support for large-scale strategic private investments for supply-chain development of technology-critical metals both at home and abroad, and aim to make the UK an international refining centre for specific Technology-critical metals by 2025.
5) Create individual task forces bridging primary and secondary materials for targeted technology-critical metals. These should identify the investments that would be required to set up primary processing, refining and recycling facilities for these materials.
6) Introduce incentives to encourage recycling, refining and processing of technology critical metals in the UK, particularly for processes that deliver a lower environmental footprint.
7) Prioritise technology-critical metals in UK research and innovation strategies in areas such as the circular economy, developing substitute materials and efficient processing techniques for Technology-critical metals. In particular, this could be in the form of transnational funding initiatives to work with other nations on supply chain developments for targeted technology critical metals. The projects will need to bridge funding councils, and TRL levels, to have real impact.
8) Invest in the skills base in advanced materials processing and refining of technology-critical
metals.
9) Urgently address the lack of data on material flows for Technology-critical metals into and out of the UK economy.
10) Review waste management law with a view to promoting recovery of technology-critical metals and ensure that there are no unnecessary
regulatory barriers.
11) Encourage information exchange through the whole supply chain toensure the challenges for recyclers are well understood by the product designers. This will evolve through time and the new UKRI Met4Techhub184 could and should be used as a vehicle for this. Schemes like the new battery passports could be implemented across different sectors.
12) Consider how it might ensure sustainability and resilience in the supply chain for technology-critical metals.

The network has led to several consortia being formed to tackle many of the issues surrounding critical materials including for example the Met4Tech UKRI project which aims to develop the circular economy for a range of these materials covered in the network. Rare (Innovate project) which aims to recycle rare earth magnets and follow on funding for recycling of lithium-ion batteries though the Faraday Institution.
Exploitation Route The policy commission document should be used to influence UKRI funding on technology-critical materials . It will be used as evidence for funding in the industrial strategy in DER and Faraday and though the Advanced Propulsion Centre. The draft of the policy commission document has been presented to members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords and should form part of a debate in the house of commons in the coming weeks. There will be sessions at G7 on critical materials and supply chains and at COP26 where the policy commission document should have an influence.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Chemicals,Electronics,Energy,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology,Transport

 
Description The final policy commission document has been previewed to members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. This meeting was attended by BEIS, DEFRA, the cabinet office, DIT, Critical Materials Association, UK funding bodies and multiple high level industrial stakeholders. The open launch was held on the 27th of April 2021 on line. The result of the policy commission has been that UK government has set up an interdepartmental panel to produce a UK strategy on critical minerals. This will direct UK policy in this field for the coming years affecting future research directions, supply chain development, economic development and ultimately it will lead to significant societal and environmental benefits given the applications where these materials are used.
First Year Of Impact 2021
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Chemicals,Education,Electronics,Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Security and Diplomacy,Transport
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description Members of CREAM have secured funding for a policy commission on critical materials
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
 
Description Policy Commission - Securing Strategic Elements & Critical Materials for the United Kingdom . This is being chaired by Sir John Beddington (ex chief scientific advisor). The launch of the final document was planned for the 23rd of April 2020 in the House of Lords. Obviously this was delayed because of Covid. The final report was previewed in March 2021 and will be released this year on April 2021
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
 
Description Postnote on Critical Materials
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
URL https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/POST-PN-0609#fullreport
 
Description Professor Walton contributed heavily to a report on critical materials which was delivered to the cabinet office in the summer of 2018.
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
 
Description UK Critical Mineral Expert Group
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
Impact Critical materials impact multiple industries as outlined above. The strategy will help secure these materials for the UK which are critical to the energy generation, transport, medical and electronics sectors. This has societal and economic impacts and it also affects the future education strategy for the UK in this space.
URL https://www.gov.uk/government/news/business-secretary-opens-latest-meeting-of-the-critical-minerals-...
 
Description preview meeting of the final policy commission report
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
Impact The Cream network hosted a preview event for the final policy commission report in March 2021. The report will be in the public domain on the 1st of April 2021 on the ISBN - 9780704429697. Speakers at the event included the head of the Department for Industry and Trade, Alexander Stafford (MP), John Beddington (ex chief scientific advisor), head of the critical materials association etc.... The report will be used as a reference document for discussions in the House of Commons and the plan is to include critical materials in discussions at G7and COP26.
URL https://creamnetwork.org.uk/what-is-a-critical-material/
 
Description (SUSMAGPRO) - Sustainable Recovery, Reprocessing and Reuse of Rare-Earth Magnets in a Circular Economy (SUSMAGPRO)
Amount € 14,741,592 (EUR)
Funding ID 821114 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 05/2019 
End 05/2023
 
Description Driving the Electric Revolution - Innovate UK
Amount £4,389,000 (GBP)
Organisation Innovate UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2021 
End 01/2024
 
Description REAP - Rare-Earth Extraction from Audio Products
Amount £174,744 (GBP)
Funding ID 75835 
Organisation Innovate UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2020 
End 07/2021
 
Description REEsilience - Resilient and sustainable critical raw materials REE supply chains for the e-mobility and renewable energy ecosystems and strategic sectors
Amount £11,995,308 (GBP)
Funding ID 101058598 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 04/2022 
End 05/2026
 
Description RaRE - Rare-Earth Recycling for E-Machines
Amount £1,893,543 (GBP)
Funding ID 105397 
Organisation Innovate UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2020 
End 04/2023
 
Description SCREAM (Securing Critical Rare Earth Magnets for the UK)
Amount £3,431,093 (GBP)
Funding ID 10008116 
Organisation Innovate UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2022 
End 03/2025
 
Description Driving the Electric Revolution (industrialisation centre) 
Organisation Newcastle University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have secured funding to build a rare earths processing plant in the UK . This will be the only facility of its kind in the UK
Collaborator Contribution The lead partner is Newcastle University. Over 10 companies supported the UoB part of the bid with over £20 million in match funding
Impact This is just starting
Start Year 2021
 
Description Met4Tech (UKRI Circular Economy project) 
Organisation University of Exeter
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution As a result of CREAM this led to the formation of the Met4Tech project. I cannot find this in the portal (in the future funding section), probably as it is just starting now. This is a project on the circular economy of technology metals with over 20 industrial partners. The project is funded through UKRI and in one of the new circular economy hubs
Collaborator Contribution Many of the CREAM partners have formed the the Met4Tech project. Exeter are leading this and Birmingham Uni is one of the partners. There are 5 academic partners.
Impact The project has only just started so none yet
Start Year 2021
 
Description SCREAM (Securing Critical Rare Earth Magnets for the UK) funded through Driving the Electric Revolution 
Organisation European Metal Recycling Limited
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution This project is to set up a recycling supply chain for automotive magnets from end of life vehicles through to new drive motors in cars.
Collaborator Contribution There are multiple partners in this project from scrap processors to magnet manufacturers to automotive companies taking the magnets at end of life
Impact This started this month
Start Year 2022
 
Description SCREAM (Securing Critical Rare Earth Magnets for the UK) funded through Driving the Electric Revolution 
Organisation GKN
Department GKN Automotive
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution This project is to set up a recycling supply chain for automotive magnets from end of life vehicles through to new drive motors in cars.
Collaborator Contribution There are multiple partners in this project from scrap processors to magnet manufacturers to automotive companies taking the magnets at end of life
Impact This started this month
Start Year 2022
 
Description SCREAM (Securing Critical Rare Earth Magnets for the UK) funded through Driving the Electric Revolution 
Organisation Jaguar Land Rover Automotive PLC
Department Jaguar Land Rover
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution This project is to set up a recycling supply chain for automotive magnets from end of life vehicles through to new drive motors in cars.
Collaborator Contribution There are multiple partners in this project from scrap processors to magnet manufacturers to automotive companies taking the magnets at end of life
Impact This started this month
Start Year 2022
 
Description A way to recover rare earths from electric motors' magnets - Article in the economist 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Article on extraction and recycling of rare earth magnets
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.economist.com/science-and-technology/2021/05/13/a-way-to-recover-rare-earths-from-electr...
 
Description Active Communications International Battery Recycling Conference - Title Future Lithium Ion Battery Recycling : Towards a roadmap. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Gavin Harper chaired one of the sessions at the conference and gave a presentation on the circular economy of batteries.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Article in National Geographic 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Article on battery recycling
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/electric-vehicles-take-off-recycling-ev-batte...
 
Description COP26 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact I gave a talk on rare earth materials and recycling at COP26. The intended purpose was to outline the intentional challenges of supply for these materials and the challenges for recycling.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://ukcop26.org/events/novel-electrification-through-advanced-sustainable-technologies/
 
Description ITV Central West, 25th January 2022, 6PM Bulletin - Battery Recycling 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Press piece on battery recycling
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description International Energy Agency Programme on Technology Collaboration Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Task 40, Critical Raw Materials 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact International engagement on critical materials
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Meeting with Secretary of State for Levelling Up at Tyseley Energy Park where much of the critical materials activity at Birmingham takes place. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Visit of the levelling up secretary of state. Discussions took place about supporting critical materials supply chains.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/news/latest/2022/03/secretary-of-state-for-levelling-up-visits-tyseley-...
 
Description Nato meeting on rare earths 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Prof Walton attended and gave a talk at the Nato meeting on rare earth materials. This was attended by an international delegation of policy makers, military, businesses and academia.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description New statesman article - critical materials 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Article in the new statesman.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.newstatesman.com/spotlight/energy/2018/05/why-critical-materials-are-exactly
 
Description Presentation at UK - Australia meeting on Rare Earths 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact I have represented the UK at two UK - Australian meetings on critical materials
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description SoS Mineral programme - talk by Allan Walton in the Royal Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Discussion on critical materials in the UK and international.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.bgs.ac.uk/sosminerals/
 
Description Supply chains for lithium ion batteries 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The second meeting of CREAM has been set up for 2019 in order to bring academic and industrialists together in the supply chain for batteries. The aim being to create industrial links to bid into the next round of the Faraday Challenge fund.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description The new gold rush: How Britain's mines will be central to ending our reliance on China - Contribution to article in the Telegraph 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Article on primary extraction of critical materials
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.telegraph.co.uk/environment/2021/05/02/new-gold-rush-britains-mines-will-central-ending-...
 
Description UK Government Expert Panel on Critical Minerals 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The first recommendation of the policy commission which was funded through Cream was to set up a UK panel involving different government departments to produce a full UK Critical Materials strategy. This has now been set up in late 2021 headed by BEIS and their chief Scientific Officer. I was asked to sit on this panel directly advising BEIS, DEFRA, the cabinet office etc... I have attended 4 meetings so far and contributed to the new strategy document which will be released in 2022.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.gov.uk/government/news/business-secretary-opens-latest-meeting-of-the-critical-minerals-...
 
Description War in Ukraine could cut global supply of essential elements for making green technology - in the conversation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Article on the impact of the Russia - Ukraine conflict on supply chains for critical materials
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://theconversation.com/war-in-ukraine-could-cut-global-supply-of-essential-elements-for-making-...
 
Description Workshop on Efficient Extraction of Critical Materials 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact This was the launch event of the network and was held at the new conference park at the University of Birmingham.
Multiple debates took place around the extraction technologies used to separate rare earths, cobalt, lithium, indium and PGMs.
New projects were conceived at the meeting. Links were made between industry and academia which have fed into the next stage of the Faraday Industrial Challenge bids.
Policy discussions took place with regard to a new policy commission which is starting with government in 2019
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description interview on critical rare earth materials - the conversation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Article on the impact of critical materials on the electric automotive supply chains
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://theconversation.com/ford-bridgend-closure-the-uks-car-industry-could-stage-a-revival-by-recy...
 
Description outreach activity - building an electric boat with recycled critical materials 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact We are building a demonstrator electric boat to run on the Birmingham canal for demonstrating recycling materials on board. This is for outreach particularly for schools
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022