Research

A foundation of government and industrially funded research projects underpin the theoretical and practice based contribution of ECCE.

Our current externally funded projects relate to three major themes:

  • Firstly, CE transformation of legacy/existing materials and material assets from the linear economy into flows of high value products for circular economy infrastructure.
  • Secondly, CE focused innovation and design of future systems to create and capture higher value from material flows at all stages of new and existing value chains in both the Technosphere and Biosphere.
  • Thirdly, CE critical enablers such policy, education and digital technologies that support data driven circular economy manufacturing and business models

CE transformation of legacy/existing materials:

Novel techniques to deconstruct and recover high value structural products from end of life buildings, high value re-manufacture of products for future circular construction systems.

Overview of project

REgenerative BUILDings and products for a circular economy: REBUILD £1M (PI: P. Hopkinson 2018-2021) - is a 3 year Engineering and Physical Science Research Council Project (EPSRC EP/P008917/1 to address the potential to create circular value from remanufacturing products of buildings at end of service life (EoSL) into high value durable products for new builds, which themselves should be designed for future deconstruction and product re-use.

The project has four interlinked elements.

  1. Quantifying the stocks of brick, steel, concrete and masonry within current buildings and understanding the barriers to reclaim and stocks and barriers to re-use.
  2. New demolition, separation, repair and remanufacture techniques(e.g 3D printing) that lead to the maximum amount of reusable components at the highest value (WP2);
  3. Quantify the re-use potential, material and environmental impact, cost avoidance and value creation potential for each category of re-usable product.
  4. Define and optimise circular systems (building design techniques, product choices, fabrication centres, upcycling facilities, logistics, resource bank storage, market-places,) to maximise the reclaim and re-use of product.

Recovering and creating value from food production waste

ECCE Lead

Prof. Mickey Howard

Overview of project

Food and drink has been identified as one of the three key sectors offering most opportunity and scope for circular economy opportunity (EMF 2017) Food and circular economy – is a two year EPSRC funded project to optimise circular supply chains in the food and drink sector with a focus on SMEs in the south west of the UK. The overall aim is to understand how such firms can capitalise on the opportunities from circular economy and make the value shift from a linear -take-make—dispose approach to regenerative circular systems. An interdisciplinary research team of sustainable supply chain experts, mathematical modellers, social scientists and engineers is working closely with businesses ranging from micro to 200+ emloyees, exploring and testing new technologies, processes, tools and product designs.

The project has four key elements:

  1. Value stream mapping (VSM) techniques will be adapted to create an initial current state of the firm in terms of identifying process flow, key stakeholder involvement and the existence of any specific waste or good practice e.g. closed loop activity.
  2. Modelling tools such as Qualitative Systems Dynamics (QSD) and Discrete Event Simulation (DES) will be used to reveal specific issues in the water-materials-energy nexus both within and between firms.
  3. Exploring the concept of a Capability Maturity Model (CMM) specifically for the CE and what this means in terms of the ‘trajectory of skills’ required for firms seeking to raise their level of involvement from improver, to regional leader in CE.
  4. Developing a framework of CE indicators to measure how far firms and their partners in the supply chain have embraced CE thinking, where gaps may exist in terms of current practice, and how these can be closed.

CE focused innovation and design of future systems:

System design for high value plastic material cycles; biomaterials as alternatives to fossil fuel plastics; safer by design future plastics based on scientific evidence of health impacts of different plastics in weathered environments;

Overview of project 2019-2020: EPSRC Exeter Centre for Multi-Disciplinary Plastics Research (EXeMPlaR) £1M (PI: P.Hopkinson) ExeMPLaR is a Multidisciplinary Plastics Research Hub led by the University of Exeter. The hub will use the principles of the circular economy to address the accumulation, impact and costs of plastics in the environment, whilst maintaining applications for multiple high value purposes. The 18–month programme will address both the causes of the problems and efforts to solve them, rather than just treating the symptoms. This research effort connects technical solutions, human behaviours, social, environmental and economic systems with circular economy principles.
Website and social media

Self-healing materials combining biological materials (e.g bacteria) into technical materials (e.g concrete)

Duration March 2018 – February 2021
Funding Body / Organisation EPSRC
ECCE Lead Prof. Fiona Charnley
Partners Universities of Bristol, Aberdeen, Lancaster, Sheffield Hallam, Manchester, Northumbria, AFC Energy, AKZO Nobel, CENSIS, Defence Science & Tech Lab DSTL, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, ITM Power, National Nuclear Laboratory, Overlander Batteries, The Data Lab, Zentraxa
Overview of project This project investigates the use of innovative manufacturing methods to enable the reliable and scaleable production of evolvable bio-hybrid systems that possess the inherent ability to sense and repair damage and ‘self-heal’ in the form of 'immortal' products. This will ultimately lead to the development of products and devices that can continue to function without needing repair or replacement over the course of their life. For example, imagine a mobile phone that can self-repair its own screen after being dropped, or a circuit board in a laptop computer that can repair itself after being short-circuited. The outputs of this project have the potential to provide solutions to some of our greatest societal challenges and by doing so to reinvigorate the UK manufacturing industry by establishing it as a world leader in the production of self-healing systems.
Website and social media

Crop diversification and low-input farming cross Europe: from practitioners' engagement and ecosystems services to increased revenues and value chain organisation.

Duration 5 years (2017 - 2022)
Funding Body / Organisation EU H2020
ECCE Lead Prof. Stefano Pascucci
Partners 40+ partners – Main partners: University of Cartagena (E), Wageningen University (NL), Barilla Food Company (IT), Tuscia University (IT), LUKE (FI)
Overview of project

Regenerative agriculture is a key component of a circular economy. The theory and practice of regenerative agriculture is developing rapidly. Staff at ECCE are involved in Diverfarming a major a 5-year EU-funded project, started in 2017. The project aims to develop and test different diversified cropping systems (rotations, multiple cropping and intercrops for food, feed and industrial products) under low-input practices, for conventional and organic systems for field case studies to increase land productivity and crops quality, and reduce machinery, fertilisers, pesticides, energy and water demands. The interdisciplinary research consortium aims to explore how the diversified cropping systems can, under low-input practices, increase the delivery of ecosystem services (soil fertility, prevention of soil and water contamination, water availability, reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, carbon sequestration, erosion prevention, above and belowground biodiversity and pest and disease control). In line with a systems perspective the projects will evaluate how the downstream value chains and the actors involved will be impacted by the new diversified cropping systems, and so, propose new organizational structures adapted to the new production models from a technical, social, cultural and economic perspective, from farmer to consumer.

The project will develop and test agro-ecosystem models that will explore how the diversified cropping systems influence the land productivity and the soil-plant system in order to select the most suitable option for end-users and policy-makers for each pedoclimatic region and farm size. It also aims to evaluate the proposed diversified cropping systems on the basis of their economic impact, at all levels. To analyse relevant policies for synergies, conflicts and feedback loops and to develop a set of indicators for characterizing an enabling environment for sustainable crop production and value chain adaptation.

Website and social media
Overview of project

Tevi (Cornish for ‘grow’) is a new, unique and exciting EU-funded venture which aims to do two things, simultaneously; create both economic and environmental growth in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. The initiative, which runs until 2021, provides small and medium-sized enterprises across the county with expert consultation, opportunities for recognition and certification, and grant funding. We want to help enterprises make the most of the prized asset upon which they rely – our beautiful natural environment – by helping them grow their business.

Tevi supports enterprises to become more efficient with their natural resource use and to minimise their waste in smart and innovative ways as part of the global transition towards a circular economy. The work is led by the University of Exeter, and is delivered in partnership with the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, Cornwall Council and the Cornwall Development Company.

Website https://tevi.co.uk/about-tevi/
Duration 01 Jan 2020 to 30 Dec 2022
Funding body

European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF)

ECCE lead

Dr Allen Alexander

Partners

Cornwall College

Overview of project

The Future Focus II project provides focussed support to SMEs based in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (C&IoS) helping them to realise their growth potential through innovation. The project aims to improve productivity and deliver economic growth by stimulating early stage Research Development and Innovation (RD&I) activity.

Website https://www.unlocking-potential.co.uk/existing-business/future-focus

CE critical enablers:

Data-Driven Intelligence for a Circular Economy. The acquisition and analysis of product data to support end-of-life decision making in high-value circular manufacturing.

Duration February 2019 – January 2022
Funding Body / Organisation EPSRC
ECCE Lead Prof. Fiona Charnley
Partners

University of Sheffield, Cranfield University, Rolls Royce, Airbus, Cisco, The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, The Manufacturing Technology Centre, Riversimple

Overview of project ‘Circular 4.0: Data-Driven Intelligence for a Circular Economy’ (C4.0) aims to investigate how data, acquired through the latest advances in digital technologies, such as those catalysed by the Internet of Things (IoT), can shape decisions about the manufacture and utilisation of engineering products to accelerate the transition to a circular manufacturing system of the future.
Website
Social media

Industrial Systems in the Digital Age. A research network supporting the academic and industrial Digital Manufacturing community through feasibility studies, early career placements, outreach activities and events.

Duration September 2019 – August 2022
Funding Body / Organisation EPSRC
ECCE Lead Prof. Fiona Charnley
Partners University of Nottingham, University of Liverpool, Centre for Digital Built Britian, Centre for Process Innovation, High Value Manufacturing Catapult, Petras Internet of Things Hub
Overview of project

The Connected Everything II (CEII) Network Plus will deliver a network of networks which will accelerate multi-disciplinary collaboration, foster new collaborations between industry and academia and tackle emerging challenges which will underpin the UK academic community's research in support of people, technologies, products and systems for digital manufacturing. Through a range of activities, including feasibility studies, networking, and thematic research, CEII will bring together new teams within a multidisciplinary community to explore new ideas, demonstrate novel technologies in the context of digital manufacturing, and accelerate impact of research into industry. 

Website https://connectedeverything.ac.uk/
ECCE Lead Prof. Stefano Pasucci
Overview of project

Strength2Food is a 5-year EU-funded project that started in 2016, which assesses the impacts, exchanges knowledge, and informs policy making on regenerative food chains

Recently in the European Union, both EU quality policy and Public Sector Food Procurement have witnessed recent reforms. These changes focus on improving and promoting schemes that protect quality logos (names of quality agricultural products and foodstuffs) and take into account environmental, social and innovation-based criteria when awarding the public sector contracts to procurers and suppliers.

The project focuses on (i) how quality logos can be harnessed further to positively affect rural development, particularly in disadvantaged areas; (ii) how to evaluate how the reforms are being applied in practice, and (iii) how they can be improved and how to make them more effective in the future.

Specifically, Strength2Food will:

  • Aid policy makers and other relevant stakeholders in improving the effectiveness of current policies on food quality designations and public sector food procurement to enhance their sustainability and promotion of healthy and nutritious diets.
  • Develop and deliver effective policies for improving the overall sustainability of agriculture and capacity for balanced nutrition.
  • Demonstrate and validate how to stimulate the development of new quality markets and local food chains through pilot initiatives and innovative actions.
  • Maximise the impact of the project’s activities and achievements through effective knowledge exchange and communication with a wide range of relevant stakeholders on up-to-date sustainable practices.
Duration

Sept 2018 – May 2019

Funding Body / Organisation ESRC Impact – Social Policy Network Funding
ECCE Lead David Monciardini
Partners

All-Party Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group (APSRG) 

Overview of project

In the wake of an unprecedented level of interest in the issue of plastic pollution, and a consequent raise in plastic-related policies around the world, the current situation is that many policies are fragmented and disconnected. Problems of policy coherence risk undermining the effectiveness of existing rules. This impact grant is aimed at facilitating engagement between academic researchers and key public policy formers and influencers. It resulted in two workshops at regional and national level. The policy discussion has been informed by a comprehensive European survey of plastics policies across different jurisdictions performed by University of Exeter researchers.

Website https://www.policyconnect.org.uk/events/plastic-regulation-across-europe-and-uk