Royce Visiting Professor presents at UK-India Critical Materials Research and Innovation Workshop

In March, Dr Laura Cohen, Royal Academy of Engineering’s (RAEng) Visiting Professor at University of Manchester and Henry Royce Institute attended  and presented at an important UK-India Industry-Academia scoping workshop on Critical Metals/ Materials Research and Innovation Opportunities at the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay.

Laura’s attendance was facilitated by Prof. Aravind Vijayaraghavan, Department of Materials at Manchester, in his role as Faculty Head of Internationalisation for India. Laura is the former CEO of the British Ceramic Confederation (BCC).

The inaugural UK-India exploratory workshop explored research and innovation excellence and challenges in both countries, as well as identifying opportunities for collaboration and helping to build relationships between the UK and Indian research and industry communities.

Laura presented on University of Manchester and Henry Royce Institute capabilities and how they might add value to a Critical Metals and Materials Strategy, embracing the Circular Economy, the Foundation Industries; materials substitution and reduction in use of Critical Metals and Materials and roadmapping in this area, as well as highlighting other UK expertise and programmes.

Role of critical materials

It is recognised that critical metals such as copper, cobalt, gallium, indium, rare earth and platinum group metals are critical in the development of low-carbon industries globally.

The Critical Metals Industry includes the mining, smelting, processing and recycling in which research and innovation is an important role. UK and India face similar challenges in terms of building supply chain resilience in critical metals as both countries lack adequate sources of critical metals and minerals.

The India workshop kick-started a project which has two important aims:

  • To map the India landscape to assess strengths, challenges and opportunities for collaboration with UK.
  • To enable greater understanding of each other’s landscape and relevant stakeholders (industry, academia, think tanks and government).

Laura said: “A strong message from the workshop is that the long term impacts and consequences in relation to the use of our energy, materials and water systems needs to be looked at in totality, and we need economically viable energy efficiency that decreases overall energy consumption, rather than just creating extra product demand.

“In regards to future funding, I hope Government takes account of the wide range of end users of the critical materials which are essential for our everyday life, as well as the transition to net zero – it is also clear that interdisciplinary working is essential in this field.”

The Workshop included interdisciplinary UK delegates from the Universities of Birmingham, Cambridge, Liverpool, Brunel and the Open University as well as the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) and a spin-out company from research at Manchester University.

Next Steps

In March, the UK Government published an updated a policy paper Resilience for the Future: The UK’s Critical Minerals Strategy which aims to outline how to secure a long-term critical minerals supply for UK industry.

A Task & Finish Group on Critical Minerals Resilience for UK Industry will produce an independent report at the end of 2023. This will focus on which – and how much – critical minerals UK industry needs now and in future, what risks they face and how businesses can promote resilience in their critical mineral supply chains.

The Group is chaired by Katherine Bennett, CEO, High Value Manufacturing Cataplut (HVMC), with IOM3 investigating the skills to support these supply chains. This precedes a programme of public engagement by the UK Critical Minerals Intelligence Centre.