Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Process systems: components and integration

This research area covers the design, operation, modelling, control and optimisation of chemical, physical and biological bulk-product processes that are conducted continuously or repeatedly.

Partners involved:
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The scope and what we're doing

This research area focuses on the design, operation, modelling, control and optimisation of chemical, physical and biological bulk-product processes that are conducted continuously or repeatedly.

The area encompasses research concerned with different components (for example, process chemistry and biochemical processes, reactor design and engineering, separations, membranes) and their integration into a new or existing process or plant. This might involve taking a holistic approach to the design, modelling and operation of a whole system or plant, or consideration of individual components and operations within it.

This research area also includes associated fundamental understanding of the operation of the components and system and their dynamics (for example reaction engineering). Research in this area is central to addressing current and future national challenges related to sustainability and resource efficiency.

To ensure a balanced portfolio, we have considered this strategy alongside the broader chemical engineering portfolio including the Complex fluids and rheology, and Particle technology research areas.

We will work with the community to focus on collaboration across the chemistry and chemical engineering interface, identifying opportunities for multidisciplinary research that delivers against our prosperity outcomes and ambitions. Opportunities may exist to link to the Engineering Grand Challenge addressing engineering across length scales, from atoms to applications.

Student training remains highly relevant in this research area and across the wider chemical engineering portfolio due to the growing number of chemical engineering undergraduates, drawn by strong industrial demand. We will work with the chemical engineering community to explore and address any concerns over academic leadership and the balance of support across all career levels.

Industry continues to have a vital role, not only in translating fundamental academic research but also in defining commercially sensible and measurable targets for step change improvements. Working with key stakeholders to strengthen links in this portfolio would be highly beneficial.

The community should work across chemistry, chemical engineering and manufacturing disciplines to link discovery with process and manufacture. Interdisciplinary working will allow smart approaches to challenges which cross traditional boundaries. This connected working will strengthen the chemicals continuum and help develop an appropriately skilled workforce for the relevant sectors.

Encouraging integrated approaches to the design of biochemical products and processes continues to be a key priority.

This research area plays a key role in maximising the opportunities presented by new and emerging platform technologies, for example synthetic biology, for which scale-up will become an increasingly important issue. The process engineering community should seek to develop links to such emerging areas to help maximise their potential.

Why we're doing it

This area remains strategically important to the UK, underpinning a number of industrial sectors. It plays a vital role in scaling up discoveries made in the chemical, biological and physical sciences, delivering new or improved products and processes for the chemical industry and industries that use chemistry.

There is extremely high potential for impact on the UK economy through development of more sustainable and economical processes for UK industries. Chemical and pharmaceutical businesses in the UK contribute £75 million of added value every working day (£20 billion a year) to the UK’s gross domestic product.

Significant investment has been made to help produce a suitably skilled workforce through centres for doctoral training (CDTs) with clear links to this portfolio. Bioprocess engineering leadership, sustainable chemical technologies, and catalysis have links to this portfolio, while investments such as the Catalysis Hub also link strongly to this area.

Clear links exist across the EPSRC portfolio. Key interactions include the following research areas:

Links to manufacturing the future are hugely important as the field develops whole systems and processes suitable for industrial use.

View evidence sources used to inform our research strategies.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships. Find out more about research area connections and funding for process systems: components and integration.

Find previously funded projects on Grants on the Web.

Who to contact

Last updated: 4 January 2023

This is the website for UKRI: our seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK. Let us know if you have feedback or would like to help improve our online products and services.