UK FIRES is a major research programme, comprising a consortium of subscribing industrial partners from resource-intensive sectors working with academics from Cambridge, Imperial College, Oxford, Bath, Nottingham and Strathclyde who are funded from 2019-2024 by a £5m programme grant from the EPSRC. The collaboration is co-ordinated through a Living Lab.
Delivering the UK government’s legally binding commitment of net-zero emissions by 2050 is an extraordinary challenge for the complex supply chains that transform material resources into societal benefit. The challenge will create opportunities for innovation and could trigger a renaissance for resource-intensive industry in the UK. The challenge requires industry to place Resource Efficiency at the heart of its strategy. The revision of industrial strategy will require: energy and material use data, options for change and potential pathways to deployment; these together are the focus of UK FIRES.
UK FIRES takes a pragmatic approach: we focus only on technologies that are available to us today and exclude those that have yet to be proven at meaningful scale, since they simply may not be ready in time. In 2050 we aim to meet the energy demand of UK society by non-emitting electricity generation.
What do we need to do?
- To achieve zero-emissions we need holistic strategy and policy along the supply chain which can place resource efficiency at the heart of industrial strategy. In response UK FIRES will develop new holistic analysis, benchmarks and standards to release climate resilient goods and businesses.
- Today’s industrial system was designed without resource constraints. This is not sustainable in a zero-emissions future. In response UK FIRES will use exemplar innovations to reveal the pathways to delivering a future-fit UK industrial renaissance with products, services and processes designed for resource efficiency.
- Our understanding of today’s resource transformation and use is constrained by an information deficit. This information deficit needs to be overcome to enable responsive business models which achieve zero-emissions. In response UK FIRES will develop the digital tools to provide better foresight in future industrial systems.
- Bulk materials are cheap, this means they can be used inefficiently with over-specification and high levels of production scrap. In response UK FIRES will eliminate waste by revealing the full range of options for design and production, identifying and amplifying best practice using technologies available today.
The Cost of Doing Nothing
Since 1990, UK manufacturing output has declined in favour of importation. Without a newly pro-active industrial strategy the UK will continue the trend of manufacturing decline and rely on importing goods with high embodied emissions to meet UK demand. Whilst this supports the legal commitment of generating net-zero emissions in the UK, our consumption emissions would still be too high as we would be importing our emissions instead of generating them. Reducing consumption emissions to net-zero by 2050 requires a total transformation of the UK industrial system, with pro-active climate policies translated into a focus on Resource Efficiency. If we reverse the trend of industrial decline and deliver innovative products and services with zero emissions, the UK could lead an Industrial Renaissance to be a major winner in this transformation to zero emissions.
How we’ll deliver change
- To support holistic industrial strategies and supply chains UK FIRES academic partners will create Responsive strategic analysis tools. Living Lab industrial partners will apply these findings through the generation of new business models in collaboration with our Policy Champion.
- Through specific case studies of process, product and service innovation, the consortium will seek to define the innovation pathways by which the new practices of Resource Efficiency can be the basis of thriving UK businesses. Living Lab partners will be supported to exploit these opportunities in practice.
- The tools of recent advances in data science will be applied in a new Resource Observatory, to provide the highest-resolution insights into the UK’s use of resources, with new metrics, scenarios and search tools used to identify opportunities for valuable innovation and efficiency gains. These tools will give our industry partners foresight in strategic decision making
- Software tools to enumerate all options for design and delivery of resource intensive goods with today’s technologies will be developed and commercialised. This opportunity mapping will identify new methods of design and manufacture which improve on existing best practices. An example of our work in this area is given in the case study opposite.
A Different Coalition
- Resource Efficiency is a long-established goal, but resource use is still rising. UK FIRES brings together a new coalition of skills aiming at real change.
- UK FIRES populates the interfaces between different approaches to resource efficiency. It brings together Corporate Strategy, Data Science, Materials Processing, Economics, Material Efficiency and Systems Analysis aiming to bridge the divide between economic and political framing of technology innovations in order to reach scale in implementation.
- The Living Lab will create a real-time dialogue between the strategic needs of our industry partners and the goals of the research team. UK FIRES aims both to have maximum practical impact and to target its research effort by delivering the work collaboratively.
- UK FIRES is closely connected to the UK’s Catapult network and through Policy Champion Laura Sandys will be an active player in Resource Efficiency policy in national and regional government, and with the network of influencers around policy developments.
- UK FIRES will connect to all relevant UK activities on Resource Efficiency through an annual forum to share best practice and innovation.
UK FIRES aims to provide data, tools, experience and analysis to support its partner companies in specifying new business models, accessing innovation, identifying opportunities, improving best practice and developing “resource ingenuity” as they pursue Resource Efficiency in practice.
UK FIRES members can access the resources of the £5m programme through:
- Quarterly meetings of the Living Lab, in which members across the bulk materials supply chains specify target challenges for future work, support current activity and provide feedback on the application of programme insights in practice.
- Early access to emerging analysis of strategic opportunities
- Shared or dedicated PhD students applying the collective insights of the UK FIRES team to specific commercial contexts
- Pilot testing of new tools developed in the research programme
- Shaping the agenda and participating in the Annual UK FIRES Resource Efficiency Forum.
To discuss membership, please contact us via our contact form
What our partners say
“Through UK FIRES we hope to connect with our customer base to better understand their future needs as we move towards zero carbon steelmaking”Paul Sherman, Director Metallurgical Services & Richard Cinderey – Head of New Technologies, Primetals Technologies Limited
“Reducing carbon is part of our core values. UK FIRES provides an opportunity to explore new solutions to achieving this”Nick Jones, Programme Director, Infrastructure, Atkins Global
“UK FIRES can be the test-bed to lead the way for new business models that will eventually be sought by the rest of the world”Peter Schmitz, Head of Commodity Research, Anglo American plc group
“Implementation of new and improved processes can be challenging; we need to overcome a reluctance to change to achieve higher rates of scrap recycling”Alan Scholes, Chief Technology Officer, Materials Processing Institute
“Improving resource efficiency offers manufacturers the opportunity to improve their competitiveness and attract new customers. The UK FIRES project complements the High Value Manufacturing Catapult’s Circular Economy Strategy and will deliver ideas we will take and scale to support a thriving manufacturing sector.”Sam Turner, Chief Technology Officer, High Value Manufacturing Catapult
“We know our world is going to change. We want to find out what our company looks like in 30 years time. Who are our customers and how will we prosper?”Bob Rivett, V P Technology, Emerson Advanced Design Center