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Top funding for Ellen MacArthur Foundation Pioneer University

November 21, 2016

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has announced support for two projects aimed at developing a circular economy in the UK. Pioneer University, Bradford and Network University, Exeter, have both been successful in their bids securing £1 million and £387,000 respectively.

The University of Bradford School of Management’s successful proposal, led by Professor Peter Hopkinson with Professor Dennis Lam, School of Engineering and in collaboration with The University of Manchester’s Professor Yong Wang, takes a close look at the construction industry and how high value materials can be reused in new developments.

This ambitious project will demonstrate how the re-design of a construction and built environment value network, based on the principles of the circular economy, works at a regional scale to deliver far greater benefit than the current linear model and can be translated into other regions, and the wider learning applied to other key industry sectors. We are delighted to have the support of four major Northern Local authorities (Bradford, Leeds, Manchester and North Yorkshire) to provide a test bed and the support of many key industrial partners across the value chain” Professor Peter Hopkinson

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With 50,000 buildings demolished in the UK each year, the REBUILD project will bring key players from the construction, logistics and manufacturing sectors together with local authorities with the aim of, reducing costs in new builds; reusing high value materials; creating new jobs in innovative technologies of deconstruction, repair and manufacturing; and reducing environmental impacts.

“The UK has a huge legacy of buildings, including cement mortar-based masonry, reinforced concrete, and steel/concrete composite structures, which account for the vast majority of UK building construction tonnage and cost. Currently, these buildings are demolished at the end of their service life and their materials are recycled, but this is a difficult process.This project will investigate methods of extracting high value from such end of service life buildings by upgrading low-value recycling to high-value reuse of building components.This project will give us an opportunity to explore different techniques of cost-effectively reclaiming and re-manufacturing building products from hard to deconstruct buildings.” Professor Yong Wang, University of Manchester

As a Partner of the REBUILD scheme, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation will form part of a steering group with Honorary Teaching Fellow at the University of Bradford School of Management, Ken Webster, sitting on the advisory committee. The Foundation team will also provide general advice and guidance on the circular economy framework and aid the dissemination of outcomes from REBUILD across its network.

“REBUILD is both innovative and forward thinking and promises to make a significant contribution to our insight and understanding of the building and construction sector through the lens of the circular economy - a coherent framework for systems level re-design which offers an opportunity to harness innovation to enable a positive, restorative economy” Jo Miller – Ellen MacArthur Foundation Higher Education Programme Lead.

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The University of Exeter was also successful in its bid for funding, securing £387,000 to support a two-year project which looks at modelling supply chain optimisation in the food and beverages industry: Helping SME’s in South West England work towards a circular economy. With a strong focus on the UK’s Small and Medium sized enterprises, the researchers, led by Professor Boehm, will look at new technologies, processes and product designs and produce findings that could have significance at a national level. The Foundation is really pleased to support Professor Boehm and the wider research team.

Also securing funding from EPSRC was the University of York (£377,000) which is looking to gain a whole systems understanding of unavoidable food supply chain wastes for re-nutrition and Cardiff University lead by Professor Syntetos, who is researching resilient remanufacturing networks: forecasting, informatics and holons.

Professor Philip Nelson, EPSRC’s Chief Executive, said: “Moving away from a traditional linear economy where products are created, used and then disposed of, towards a circular economy where resources remain in use for as long as possible, could have widespread benefits for both the UK economy and the environment. The development of Sustainable Industries is both an important element of our Productive Nation priority and a key priority vision in our Manufacturing the Future theme. The Systems Change – Towards a Circular Economy programme demonstrates our commitment to supporting ground-breaking research in this area.”

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