Heriot-Watt to play pivotal role in Government plans to improve the sustainability of the UK chemical industry

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chemists
Female graduate and male in safety clothing (including orange suit, yellow gloves, yellow hard hat, ear protectors and safety goggles), working at BP plant in Grangemouth.

Heriot-Watt University has been announced today as the Scottish partner in a £4.3m project to help transform the green credentials of the UK chemistry industry.

The project is part of a new Government push designed to revolutionise the way resources are managed in the UK’s £32bn chemical industry to build a greener, more efficient economy.

Scottish-based academics will be scrutinizing barriers that currently prevent the finance sector from fully supporting innovation in the chemical industry and engaging with policy-makers to help shape the UK’s strategy for the chemical industry for the next twenty years.

They will also be studying consumer behaviour and working with waste reduction charity, WRAP to empower the public with practical advice around using by-products of the chemical industry.

The Interdisciplinary Centre for Circular Chemical Economy is a multi-million-pound consortium of seven universities across the UK - Loughborough, Cardiff, Heriot-Watt, Imperial College London, Liverpool, Newcastle, and Sheffield with headquarters based at Loughborough led by Professor Jin Xuan.

It forms part of a wider £22.5m national Government initiative – also announced today - to improve the UK’s circular economy in the textiles, construction, chemicals, and metals.

Reflecting the diversity of the sector, the project involves 20 partners, ranging from multinationals such as Exon Mobil and Unilever to local initiatives including WRAP and Zero Waste Scotland.

Heriot Watt’s Associate Professor Bing Xu, who will be leading the project in Scotland said:

“The vision of this project is ambitious - to transform the UK’s chemical industry by replacing its current linear supply chain with a highly integrated, climate-positive and environmentally friendly circular economy. This involves challenging all barriers to this approach and finding new ways to recover and reuse resources from domestic waste products and CO2 emissions.  

“Our collaboration right across the supply chain gives us the best chance of delivering a circular economy where we maximise reuse and recycling. 

“Here at the Edinburgh Business School at Heriot-Watt, we are proud to be leading on all aspects of this project around policy, society and finance. We’ve got brilliant partners to collaborate with and there is real potential to reduce the UK’s reliance on fossil resources.”  

Colin Kennedy, Zero Waste Scotland’s Sector Manager in Manufacturing, added:

“This is a great opportunity to lead the transition from a linear model of take, make and dispose to a circular one where everything is valued and nothing is wasted.”

The Interdisciplinary Centre for Circular Chemical Economy is funded by the UKRI Strategic Priorities Fund, and delivered by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and Innovate UK, with DEFRA and BEIS.

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Rachel Dunachie