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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/W002566/1
Title: Circular Economy for Small Medical Devices
Principal Investigator: Rahimifard, Professor S
Other Investigators:
Tako, Professor A Culmer, Professor PR Bibb, Professor R
Vargas-Palacios, Dr A
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Baxter Healthcare Ltd Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust NIHR surgical medtech co-operative
Sharpsmart Ltd Surgical Holidings Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust
Valpak Ltd
Department: Wolfson Sch of Mech, Elec & Manufac Eng
Organisation: Loughborough University
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 September 2022 Ends: 28 February 2025 Value (£): 1,546,200
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Design Processes Manufacturing Machine & Plant
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Manufacturing Healthcare
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
06 Oct 2021 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 6 and 7 October 2021 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The Circular Economy (CE) is gaining mainstream attention, but not in all sectors. The linear model, from cradle to grave, still prevails for small Medical Devices (MDs). The perception of cross contamination dominates management and processing practice after first use, but studies show that only a minority of healthcare waste is infectious. Potential innovations in product design, materials, procedure management and post-use processing offer effective infection control to enable a far higher percentage of material to enter additional cycles of functionality beyond first use. With savings from reprocessing reported at around 50%, NHS costs would reduce by hundreds of millions of pounds if such circular use of resources is fully implemented. Additional cycles may be in closed loops of MD functionality, remaining legally compliant, or open loops, where material is used in other sectors.

This project aims to develop these technical and non-technical solutions and bring them together in a coherent 'whole system' to demonstrate operation of the Circular Economy for four representative small MDs. This will require a multidisciplinary approach to utilise the expertise of product designers, manufacturers, clinical staff, waste management companies and waste processors. Wider adoption will need the engagement of professionals in health service procurement and intermediary organisations from the commercial and non-profit sectors, such as trade bodies, consultancies and health NGOs.

The project will last 2.5 years. Based on a well-defined understanding of the problem, it will start with stakeholder workshops to conduct a deep dive on the planned innovations in product design (including materials) and reprocessing technologies as well as operational and management systems. Separate but coordinated work tracks and teams will then develop innovations in these fields and produce full specifications. These will then be brought together in proof-of-concept experiments to evaluate the whole circular system. The engineering innovations related to adapted or novel small MDs designs, materials and material selection methods, and reprocessing technologies (re-use, remanufacturing or recycling) will be encapsulated in targeted CE specifications for four reference products as well as more abstracted CE guidelines for application to each product category.

The specifications for each part of the circular system and the evaluation results will be published in a variety of media and be available for project partners and others to develop into large scale systems.

The project will expand knowledge of the principles of effective Circular Economy systems in a part of the healthcare sector and integrate learning from the few previous waste management projects on specific medical devices into a 'whole system' approach. In this way we hope to significantly influence the development of a UK circular Economy for small medical devices.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.lboro.ac.uk