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University of Warwick researcher to benefit from £80m Royal Society funding to develop sustainable plastics

The University of Warwick will be at the forefront of research into sustainable materials, thanks to a share of £80 million funding by the Royal Society.

Dr Hannes Houck has been announced as one of the recipients of the Royal Society’s flagship early career research schemes, distinguishing him as an outstanding scientist with the potential to become a leader in the field of sustainability.
Dr Hannes Houck
Hannes’ research focuses on the development of new chemical building blocks that can be used to improve the sustainability of materials and specifically to make plastics easier to reuse. He is devising new conceptual approaches to form, break and reform the chemical bonds that make up many of our daily life plastics, improving their function and aiding their recycling.

Thanks to the grant, Hannes will start a new research group at the University of Warwick – recruiting post-doctoral and PhD researchers over the next eight years. The team will drive the understanding of photochemical processes and cross-linked materials, which are strong plastics we use in everyday life. These last a long time but at the end of their use are hard to break down – either being burned or placed in landfill.

The aim is to develop new materials which have strong bonds to make them durable, but which are reusable at the end of their life. The team will use techniques such as photochemical bonding – harvesting energy from light – to make materials, which can later be deconstructed at higher temperature and eventually reformed to recycle the plastic.

Dr Hannes Houck, Department of Chemistry, University of Warwick, said: “Being awarded this University Research Fellowship and becoming part of the Royal Society’s vibrant research community is a true honour. The support and longevity of this award will provide me with the unique opportunity to pursue blue-skies research ideas and create a thriving environment for the next generation of scientists to develop their research skills and foster their personal and professional growth.

“Together with my team, we will tackle fundamental and application-driven challenges to design advanced materials with improved functionality and sustainability. I am extremely grateful for the support I received throughout the application process from colleagues and mentors in the Department of Chemistry and the Institute of Advanced Study, which has brought me to this exciting new stage of my career.”

The Royal Society’s flagship early career research schemes are a sign of the investment in world leading researchers the UK needs to become a global science superpower. The long-term, flexible funding schemes provide researchers with the stability and support required to pursue innovative, cutting-edge scientific research, form international collaborations, and establish research groups.

Sir Adrian Smith, president of The Royal Society, said: "The importance of long-term funding for scientists at the early stages of their research careers cannot be understated. These scientists are fundamental to the future of research and innovation in the UK, and it is essential that we give them the support and stability they need to allow them to pursue novel and groundbreaking research. Through its globally competitive grant schemes, The Royal Society aims to ensure we attract the brightest scientists from across the world.”

The researchers will take up their new posts at institutions across the UK and Ireland from the start of October. They will be working on research projects spanning the physical, mathematical, chemical, and biological sciences.

For more information and the full list of recipients of the early career research schemes, visit:

Notes to editors

The Royal Society is a self-governing Fellowship of many of the world’s most distinguished scientists drawn from all areas of science, engineering, and medicine. The Society’s fundamental purpose, as it has been since its foundation in 1660, is to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity.

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Media contact

University of Warwick press office contact:

Annie Slinn 07876876934

Communications Officer | Press & Media Relations | University of Warwick Email:

20 October 2023