The Plastics Research and Innovation Fund
World Environment Day (5 June 2020) is the United Nations day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action to protect our environment. Much of UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) work is focused on sustainability, including our work to tackle the plastic problem.
The Plastics Research and Innovation Fund (PRIF) was a £20 million investment delivered by UKRI which began in 2018, its aim was to explore novel ideas and innovations with the potential to make the plastics sector more circular and address the challenge of persistent plastic pollution.
The PRIF programme consisted of three components: funding for cutting edge interdisciplinary research programmes led by universities; investment in business-led research and development projects through both grants and an innovative investor partnership with Sky Ocean Ventures; a core programme designed to provide leadership and knowledge exchange activity.
On 1 June 2020, the last PRIF funding competition, Designing Sustainable Plastic Solutions opened. This competition will invest up to £800,000 to fund early-stage, human-centred design projects to reduce the harm that plastics have on our environment and to increase productivity and growth of the UK economy – see the competition web page for more details.
Part of the core programme was to fund the Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to deliver the UK Circular Plastics Flagship Projects competition, the winners of which were announced recently.
Another element of the core programme was to commission Eunomia – an independent consultancy for sustainability – to undertake a study to examines both the current and future opportunities and needs of the UK plastics supply chain, supporting the transition to a circular UK plastics economy, one where waste (and pollution) are eliminated through better systems, better product design and increasing the rates of reuse, recycling and (where appropriate) composting.
The study sought to explore:
- Areas of existing strength/ weakness in the circularity of the supply chain - what are we good at, what should we be doing better?
- Potential areas/trends for future development to strengthen the circularity of the supply chain - what’s happening now and what should we do next?
- Recommendations on the areas/trends that should be a focus for activity and investment - what should we focus on?
This research consisted of consultations with government bodies, industry, non-governmental organisations, academics and other stakeholders with an understanding of the UK plastics sector, as well as interactive webinars and in-depth interviews.
The outcomes of the research will be used across UKRI to develop future plans to support research and innovation and a summary roadmap has just been published on the UK Circular Plastics Network website.
The roadmap addresses plastics across the following applications and makes recommendations for research, technology development, infrastructure and knowledge exchange:
- Building and construction
- Electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) and automotive, including tyres
- Textiles including microfibres
- Fishing gear and aquaculture
The current ISCF Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging challenge programme will be considering the packaging recommendations and join the UK Circular Plastics Network to keep abreast of all the latest plastics news and funding opportunities.
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