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Knowledge Transfer Partnership helps Infinium UK Ltd tackle environmental challenges in transport

A ground-breaking Knowledge Transfer Partnership is Integrating solid state Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) techniques with industry research and development (R&D) capabilities and developing new tools that are shaping a sustainable future for petrochemical products.

De-carbonising petroleum additives  

Infineum UK Ltd, a joint venture between Shell and Exxon Mobil, is a world leader in the formulation and manufacturing of petroleum additives for lubricants and fuels. Its products are found in one in three vehicles, ranging from motorcycles to marine super-tankers. A major challenge Infineum and the sector faces is how to de-carbonise their products. To accelerate their R&D programme Infineum enlisted the expertise and specialist facilities of the Knowledge Base (the Materials Solid State NMR Group at Warwick). Their ambition was to de-carbonise by improving the performance, efficiency, and longevity of oils and lubricants and reduce friction and the impact of extreme temperature and pressure encountered in engines. 

Knowledge transfer

Infineum has an impressive track-record for R&D however, as systems have become complex and environmental challenges pressing, they needed an expert partner to gain more in-depth insights into their products. Establishing a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with The Knowledge Base provided the company with specialised methods for studying the in-depth molecular structure of several chemical groups used by Infineum.

The aim of the partnership was todeterminewhether solid state NMR techniques could be a valuable tool within Infineum’s commercial R&D process, and if it could be applied across product development lines. Embarking on a three-year project the KTP transferred solid state NMRexpertiseto Infineum by embedding a KTP Associate as part of the research programme. Through regular partner meetings andseminars,the KTP Associate shared updates and mentored relevant Infineum employee groups on the fundamentals and theory ofsolid stateNMR techniques.

Long term benefits  

The KTP developed thecapacityof academic researchers to translate complex scientific data and findings into key outcomes for non-expert commercial specialists. This has given Infineum an advanced understanding of the response and efficiency of its products, which is equipping the company for the future. The KTP framework has also enhanced Infineum’s collaborative and partnership-driven culture, with external partners becoming integral members of internal project teams. The KTP has acted as a blueprint for further collaborations with partner academic institutions, which will see the company evolve from a leading transportation additive business into a global speciality chemical company.

“The KTP Programme was a tremendously successful way to strengthen all aspects of industrial engagement between UK Higher Education Institutions and the small,medium,and large-scale enterprisescomprisingUK industry.Industry engagement is a critically important indicatordetermininghow well an institution is functioning, and the KTP Programme offers a highly structured and effective portal through which the initiation and development of long-term relationships between company and institution canbe stimulated.”

Professor John Hanna, Knowledge Transfer Academic Lead, Department of Physics, University of Warwick

“The KTP was a true relationship for all parties involved. The structured programme provided an efficient and effective vehicle for industry to work collaboratively with academia, applying academic capabilities to real-world systems and problems and then effectively integrating such capabilities back into the company. Infineum feels the KTP has been extremely successful, and the technique (and approach) is now embedded within the company R&D culture. Based on the outputs of the KTP, it is our intention to take the partnership with the University of Warwick forward for a long-term strategic relationship based on advanced analytical techniques to enhance research and commercial activity.”

Professor Peter Dowding, Knowledge Transfer Company Lead and Principal Scientist at Infineum UK Ltd

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