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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R020140/1
Title: Critical Elements and Materials Network (CrEAM)
Principal Investigator: Walton, Professor A
Other Investigators:
Wall, Professor F
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Metallurgy and Materials
Organisation: University of Birmingham
Scheme: Network
Starts: 01 May 2018 Ends: 30 April 2022 Value (£): 297,621
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Earth Resources Materials Processing
Waste Minimisation
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
21 Nov 2017 Manufacturing Prioritisation Panel - Nov 2017 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
As the global population advances towards 9 billion, the pressure on natural resources becomes ever more intense. The emergence of new technologies which also depend heavily on scarce elements and materials puts further pressure on the Earth's resources. The EPSRC CrEAM network will tackle the problems of supply and use of materials deemed critical to UK industrial strategy by bringing together leading academics and industrial experts from across the entire critical materials supply chain.

The UK supply of key elements and materials has come under increasing pressure in recent years and is totally dependent on imports from resource-dominant countries and regions such as China, Russia and Africa. These elements and materials play a vital role in industrial sectors important to the UK such as automotive, aerospace and renewable energy technologies. The UK has previously considered its materials strategy as part of the European Union, however, with the recent Brexit decision, it is imperative that UK creates a blueprint for securing a long-term stable supply of materials deemed vital to its industrial strategy. By creating and hosting a series of both broad-topic and subject-specific meetings, the proposed network will catalyse the formation of important strategic collaborations, make policy recommendations to UK government, and propose a comprehensive 'UK Elements Strategy'.

The overarching aim of the CrEAM network is to safeguard UK industry against shortages of strategic/critical elements and materials by bringing together leading UK academics from a wide range of disciplines alongside the key industrial users, to develop strategies to protect the UK supply of these materials and, where possible, develop alternatives. The CrEAM network will raise awareness of critical materials and supply chain issues, and identify and connect UK research and development activities on selected strategic/critical materials to strengthen possibilities for multi- and interdisciplinary research. This research will help to protect UK commercial interests dependent on materials supply by connecting expertise throughout the supply chain to work on solutions to the problems identified.

The objectives of the network are based on organising interdisciplinary meetings across the entire critical materials supply chain. These meetings will provide a forum to bring together specialists from across the entire UK supply chain in critical materials to develop strategies to alleviate supply risks of these elements and materials, which are essential in a wide range of current and emerging technologies. The initial focus of the network will be determined by the most pressing supply chain issues faced by UK industry and will begin to broaden as supply chain and industry priorities evolve.

Minutes and presentations from these meetings will be disseminated via the CrEAM network website along with biannual updates and reports. Brochures and news articles will be distributed to raise awareness of the critical materials agenda and is well placed to acts as a focus for local activities across all regions of the UK. The outcome from the meetings will be to initiate new, collaborative UK-based activities and research projects to create and develop effective substitution and replacement technologies for critical materials, and to encourage creation of cyclic use of critical materials from end of life products to address critical supply issues.

The most important objective of the network will be to create a coherent 'UK Elements Strategy' document for UK Government, including policy and funding recommendations to ensure a responsible, secure and environmentally efficient supply of critical materials vital to UK industry for both short and long term stability. As the UK prepares to leave the EU, it is imperative that a strong plan is put in place to protect the industrial strategy, which is highly dependent on import of critical materials.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Project URL:  
Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.bham.ac.uk