Transforming the Foundation Industries Research and Innovation Hub (TransFIRE)

Lead Research Organisation: Cranfield University
Department Name: Sch of Aerospace, Transport & Manufact

Abstract

The Transforming the Foundation Industries Challenge has set out the background of the six foundation industries; cement, ceramics, chemicals, glass, metals and paper, which produce 28 Mt pa (75% of all materials in our economy) with a value of £52Bn but also create 10% of UK CO2 emissions. These materials industries are the root of all supply chains providing fundamental products into the industrial sector, often in vertically-integrated fashion. They have a number of common factors: they are water, resource and energy-intensive, often needing high temperature processing; they share processes such as grinding, heating and cooling; they produce high-volume, often pernicious waste streams, including heat; and they have low profit margins, making them vulnerable to energy cost changes and to foreign competition.
Our Vision is to build a proactive, multidisciplinary research and practice driven Research and Innovation Hub that optimises the flows of all resources within and between the FIs. The Hub will work with communities where the industries are located to assist the UK in achieving its Net Zero 2050 targets, and transform these industries into modern manufactories which are non-polluting, resource efficient and attractive places to be employed. TransFIRe is a consortium of 20 investigators from 12 institutions, 49 companies and 14 NGO and government organisations related to the sectors, with expertise across the FIs as well as energy mapping, life cycle and sustainability, industrial symbiosis, computer science, AI and digital manufacturing, management, social science and technology transfer. TransFIRe will initially focus on three major challenges:
1 Transferring best practice - applying "Gentani": Across the FIs there are many processes that are similar, e.g. comminution, granulation, drying, cooling, heat exchange, materials transportation and handling. Using the philosophy Gentani (minimum resource needed to carry out a process) this research would benchmark and identify best practices considering resource efficiencies (energy, water etc.) and environmental impacts (dust, emissions etc.) across sectors and share information horizontally.
2 Where there's muck there's brass - creating new materials and process opportunities. Key to the transformation of our Foundation Industries will be development of smart, new materials and processes that enable cheaper, lower-energy and lower-carbon products. Through supporting a combination of fundamental research and focused technology development, the Hub will directly address these needs. For example, all sectors have material waste streams that could be used as raw materials for other sectors in the industrial landscape with little or no further processing. There is great potential to add more value by "upcycling" waste by further processes to develop new materials and alternative by-products from innovative processing technologies with less environmental impact. This requires novel industrial symbioses and relationships, sustainable and circular business models and governance arrangements.
3 Working with communities - co-development of new business and social enterprises. Large volumes of warm air and water are produced across the sectors, providing opportunities for low grade energy capture. Collaboratively with communities around FIs, we will identify the potential for co-located initiatives (district heating, market gardening etc.). This research will highlight issues of equality, diversity and inclusiveness, investigating the potential from societal, environmental, technical, business and governance perspectives. Added value to the project comes from the £3.5 M in-kind support of materials and equipment and use of manufacturing sites for real-life testing as well as a number of linked and aligned PhDs/EngDs from HEIs and partners This in-kind support will offer even greater return on investment and strongly embed the findings and operationalise them within the sector.

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