CPI has appeared in a study by The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN), the UK-based innovation network established by Innovate UK to build better links between science, creativity, and business. KTN named CPI as a contributor to the UK innovation support landscape which is driving forward the country’s overall transition to a low carbon economy.
The scoping study, entitled From Shale Gas to Biomass: the Future of Chemical Feedstocks, provides a summary of the innovation support available in the UK as well as the innovation challenges and opportunities associated with the development of raw materials (or “feedstocks”) for the production of chemicals into the future. Raw materials covered within the study include unconventional oil and gas (particularly shale gas), carbon dioxide, renewable feedstocks, scarce metals and minerals and renewable hydrogen.
The chemicals industry produces products that are essential inputs to pretty much every sector of the economy, with its major supply chain partners being the automotive, aerospace, construction, energy, food and healthcare sectors.
However, as global population increases, so too does consumer demand for these chemicals and given the world’s finite natural resources (as well as issues of climate change and security-of-supply) the industry must develop new, sustainable, chemical feedstocks if it is to meet future demand.
The study found that there are a huge number of opportunities, through innovation, for us to develop feedstocks for chemicals of the future.
For example, the study identifies that companies are already developing the ability to capture carbon dioxide from industrial processes and utilise it as a feedstock for making polymers, fertilisers, low-carbon fuels and building materials.
We already have UK-based companies that are utilising advances in industrial biotechnology to produce biofuels and advanced materials from food waste and municipal solid waste. CPI has helped many of these companies, such as CelluComp Ltd and Fiberight, to test and develop their technology.
Scottish company CelluComp Ltd are developing a high-performance material called Curran from waste root vegetables. Curran’s properties make it ideal for use in paints and coatings, personal care and composites.
CPI is collaborating on an Innovate UK funded project with Fiberight. The aim of the project is to develop a demo-scale reactor for optimised enzymatic hydrolysis of Fiberight’s high-performance cellulose extracted from municipal solid waste.
KTN make several recommendations aimed at stimulating and supporting innovation and growth in the chemical and chemistry-using industries and throughout the wider supply chains. In summary, these include:
Unconventional oil and gas: A more detailed investigation of the innovation opportunities which might result through the supply chain as a consequence of having access to indigenous shale gas, and a collaborative approach to exploitation between shale gas producers.
Carbon dioxide: Increased support to help accelerate carbon dioxide utilisation (CDU) as well as a cross-sector collaborative exploration of the near and mid-term market opportunities for CDU.
Renewable feedstocks: Further investigation to identify which combination of biomass/carbon containing waste feedstocks, conversion technologies and market opportunities will provide the UK with a competitive advantage over coming years.
Scarce metals and minerals: Collaborative R&D between industry and academia with a focus on minimising or substituting use of scarce metals in catalysis, in addition to education of businesses on the risks scarce metals and minerals pose to the supply chain.
Renewable hydrogen: Further investigation of the challenges and opportunities renewable hydrogen presents alongside continued support for UK companies innovating in this area.
A full copy of the study is available from the KTN _connect website.