Thanks to funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), a group of universities will work to improve the sustainability of glass, ceramics, metals, paper and cement production.
In total, the foundation industries are worth £52bn to the UK’s economy, they produce 28 million tonnes of material per year and account for 10% of the UK’s total CO2 emissions.
The network, which is led by the University of Sheffield, will coordinate a unified UK wide approach to tackle the challenges of waste and emissions in this industry by bringing together expertise from various fields.
The researchers will bring together industrial, regulatory and policymaking stakeholders to create solutions that transform these sectors.
In addition to workshops, knowledge transfer, outreach and dissemination, the network will test concepts and guide the development of innovative outcomes by issuing calls for projects totalling £1.4m to the wider academic community.
Director of the Network, Professor Ian Reaney, said: ‘An economy is only as sustainable as the materials it is built on.
‘The environmental, social and economic impact of industrial processing and manufacturing can be substantial, and yet positive changes to these practices can be simple and effective if applied across a sector. Our goal is to help the UK stay at the forefront of sustainable manufacturing.’
Professor Susan Bernal Lopez, deputy director of the Network, added: ‘Times of crisis, while deeply unsettling, also open the opportunity to reflect and identify strategies to enable our industries and society to do better and to be better.
‘Foundation industries have historically played a key role underpinning every aspect of our daily lives, while constantly adjusting to the changes of time and needs, driving unique innovation. This Network has the ambitious goal to bring together multidisciplinary stakeholders to identify holistic pathways enabling the transformation of these industries in response to the unique challenges of our time.’