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 has set up a national policy commission on critical materials. Critical materials are those which are economically important but at risk of short supply. This includes rare earth magnets which are used in wind turbines, electric cars and electronics and cobalt and nickel which are used in batteries. We have held 4 evidence gathering sessions on supply chains, primary extraction, the circular economy and international perspectives with 8-10 speakers at each event. A policy document is being created which will be presented in the House of Lords on the 23rd of April 2020.
Exploitation Route The policy document is ongoing so will be updated throughout the grant period. The document should be used to influence UKRI funding in the circular economy. It will be used as evidence for funding in the industrial strategy in DER and Faraday and though the Advanced Propulsion Centre. The document should also be used to influence government policy around UK waste strategies.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Chemicals,Electronics,Energy,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology,Transport

 
Description As discussed in the impact section, the findings from the network have been used to guide UK policy on critical materials. We have formed a policy commission and contributed to a report compiled by BEIS which went in to the cabinet office last year. The policy commission will be presented in the House of Lords on the 23rd of April.
First Year Of Impact 2020
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Chemicals,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 will be on the 23rd of April in the House of Lords
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 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 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 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 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...