National circular economy research programme launches

Waste pile in landfill

A major research programme encompassing 34 universities and 200 industry partners has been launched to catalyse the UK’s shift to a circular economy.

The National Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Research (NICER) programme is supported by a £30 million UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) investment.

The programme is delivered in partnership with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), to ensure research outcomes contribute to delivery of government policy.

Environmental and economic benefits

It brings together a diverse wealth of experience and expertise to deliver environmental and economic benefits by helping industry and society to:

  • use fewer resources
  • reuse and recover products and materials instead of disposing of them after use.

The programme is formed of one coordinating hub and five national research centres:

  • The National Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Hub (CE-Hub) led by the University of Exeter
  • The Interdisciplinary Textiles Circularity Centre led by the Royal College of Art
  • The Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Centre for Mineral-based Construction Materials led by UCL
  • The Interdisciplinary Centre for Circular Chemical Economy led by Loughborough University
  • The Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Centre in Technology Metals led by the University of Exeter
  • The Interdisciplinary Centre for CircularMetal led by Brunel University London.

It was formally launched at a four-day event opened with a keynote address by Dame Ellen MacArthur, a champion of circular economy principles and founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

CE Hub Co-Lead Professor Peter Hopkinson said:

The UK economy consumes over 1 billion tonnes of materials every year, or around 17 tonnes per person, contributing to carbon emissions, a huge amount of unnecessary waste and environmental damage.

This is set to continue to grow unless we take radical action to shift the current linear economy towards a circular economy. This programme will show how this can be done at speed and scale.

CE Hub Co-Lead Professor Fiona Charnley said:

It is incredibly exciting to see the UK Research and Innovation community coming together to collaborate on Circular Economy with industry, policymakers, local and regional government and wider society to create new economic and business opportunity, reduce the use of resources and environmental impact and create jobs for the UK.

The UKRI programme is funded through the Strategic Priorities Fund and delivered by:

  • Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
  • Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
  • Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
  • Innovate UK
  • Defra.

Top image: Credit: Getty Images

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