Garbage pile in trash dump or landfill. Pollution concept.

Royce to launch sustainability Hub to support Greater Manchester SMEs with plastics innovations

The Henry Royce Institute for advanced materials research and innovation has been awarded £5M from the European Regional Development Fund to launch a £10M Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub (SMIH) for Greater Manchester.

Plastic waste is forecast to reach 40 billion tons per year globally and is increasingly associated with major world cities. Urgent action is needed to find sustainable solutions to making, using and disposing of plastics.

Greater Manchester, a region with a growing industrial and economic footprint, has clean growth at the core of its economic ambition and the Innovation Hub demonstrates its commitment to delivering the technology necessary to support this aim.

The SMIH, to be located on the 6th floor of the Royce Hub Building, will support small to medium businesses from across the whole of GM to find sustainable innovations to waste management and more sustainable plastics. By bringing together material science expertise and business intelligence to offer a defined workflow of ‘Advice’, ‘Assess’ and ‘Innovate’, the SMIH will help businesses to understand where they can make efficiencies, realise opportunities and avoid unintended consequences in their plastics management.

In the Royce Hub Building, three interlinking laboratories will be equipped with capability to characterise, synthesis and process polymers, facilitating innovation in new sustainable polymers, improved methods of recycling, and validation of emerging sustainable materials that appear on the market.

The ability to develop new plastics and recycling infrastructure is also underpinned by an understanding of the behaviours of individuals and businesses that may inhibit innovation adoption. The programme of advise, assessment and innovation will thus incorporate collaborative social science research to help businesses make informed choices to sustainable solutions.

The SMIH will be led by Director Michael Shaver, Professor of Polymer Science at The University of Manchester and Lead for Sustainable Materials for the Henry Royce Institute. Commenting on the announcement of the SMIH, Prof Shaver said;

“The Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub provides a platform to work with SMEs across Greater Manchester to help them adopt the right sustainable plastic innovation for the right reasons. We will pioneer solutions that fit with our current and emerging waste management practices and help companies make decisions that are truly sustainable rather than just band-aid interventions.”

The investment in the SMIH represents The University of Manchester’s dedication to environmental sustainability. Professor Colette Fagan, Vice-President for Research said:

“We are proud to host the Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub in Manchester. Its aims are directly aligned to our environmental sustainability strategy for our research, teaching and how we operate as a social responsible organisation. Using the University’s knowledge and influence we are committed to working with our research partners and other key stakeholders to support the innovation, growth and environmental sustainability of the region’s industrial sector for the benefit of society.”

The Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub will be a key driver in delivering Royce’s vision of Advanced Materials for a Sustainable Society. Royce CEO Prof David Knowles, who led the bid with The University of Manchester said,

“The SMIH will be a great asset to Greater Manchester’s response to the imperative of delivering sustainability in the way we embrace the use, management and recycling plastics in a city ecosystem. The interdisciplinary team will bring together scientific, economic and social research effort to help business’s make long lasting innovative solutions, build a circular economy in GM and export the innovation and best practice both nationally and internationally. This will contribute to both local economic growth and expansion of research efforts to find materials solutions to some our most pressing global challenges”.

The SMIH will support SMEs from across Greater Manchester like Dsposal who use tech to simplify waste compliance and promote industry transparency. Commenting on the award of the SMIH, Dsposal COO & Co-Founder Sophie Walker said:

“This is wonderful news for Greater Manchester’s SMEs working on improving the sustainability of the plastics value-chains. The SMIH’s interdisciplinary approach focussing both on polymer innovation and behaviour change is welcomed by Dsposal who are on a mission to make it easy for everyone to do the right thing with their waste.”

The Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub will initially run remotely by reaching out to the Greater Manchester SME community to deliver the “Assess” workstream. Following the reopening of The University of Manchester, work will get underway to fit out the 6th floor of the Royce Hub Building which will be completed in Spring 2021.

The Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub is part of the Henry Royce Institute at The University of Manchester and is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.



Mia Belfield
Communications & Engagement Officer
T: 07917597641