Academics in the Innovative Manufacturing GRP (Global Research Priority) are collaborating to turn the challenges facing the manufacturing sector into opportunities. They are doing this by creating innovations to advance manufacturing across three themes:
These themes align to national and international priorities for both industry and society.
Circular economy is an alternative to the traditional linear economy where we make, we use, we dispose. Circular economy maximizes the length of time that a resource is used. It extracts the maximum value from the resource whilst in use, then recovers and regenerates products and materials at the end of the service life.
The market for clean and sustainable technologies has grown, building on decades of public and private investment in research and development. The ideas and concepts that make up the circular economy have always been a part of this. It's only relatively recently, however, with growing interest from industry and several third sector organisations such as the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, that specific interest in the circular economy has emerged.
This interest, in part, has been sparked by several economic factors. These include rising input costs, resource volatility and an increased focus on reducing energy usage in the extraction and conversion of raw materials.
The UK's prosperity and national security rely on global stability and access to reliable sources of resources. As such, processes, technologies and whole systems that enable the circulation of valuable resources – such as reuse, recycling and remanufacturing – will become ever more important.
International interest is also growing. China implemented a Circular Economy Promotion Law in 2008 and the European Commission recently launched a Circular Economy Strategy.
Agricultural production faces many challenges. By 2050, there will be two billion more people on earth than at present. As a result, there will be a spike in global demand for the resources required to feed these people, such as land, energy and water. Increasing urbanization and industrialization will also put pressure on land requirements. Environmental change, water availability, soil degradation and biodiversity loss will likely threaten food security.
Through initiatives such as Eight Great Technologies, the UK government is addressing the challenge of global food security and the increasing pressure on UK land resources that are critical for the sustainable supply of food for a growing global population. To ensure that safe and nutritious food is available at affordable prices for the consumer, and that the food supply chain is economically sustainable for food producers, the UK must develop and adopt new methods and advanced technologies to produce its food.
Researchers in the GRP are innovating along the whole agricultural supply chain – from field to fork – to solve these challenges. They are focusing on creating and improving machinery. Also, they are exploring ways to reduce inputs into the agricultural system, to maximize outputs and to extend the shelf life of food. Particular strengths at Warwick include imaging technology, agricultural and autonomous vehicles, food, water and energy nexus, nutrition and soil health.
Industrial biotechnology refers to the use of living cells and/or their enzymes to create industrial products which are more degradable, require less energy, create less waste during production, and sometimes perform better than products created using traditional chemical processes.
Given its potential to provide resource-efficient solutions to looming future challenges concerning food production, chemical pollution, and health and environmental protection, the UK is committed to developing a strong bioeconomy.
In a bioeconomy, all economic activity would be derived from bio-based products and processes. The UK coalition government issued a report highlighting the opportunities from waste in 2015.
To help create this economy, GRP academics are exploring opportunities within industrial biotechnology. This research combines the University's expertise from life sciences through to synthetic biology.