UK-India Workshop on Circularity of Critical Materials drives country collaboration

In November an important UK-India Industry-Academia scoping workshop on Circularity of Critical Metals, Minerals and Materials was hosted by the The University of Manchester and Henry Royce Institute.

It was facilitated by both Prof. Aravind Vijayaraghavan , Department of Materials at Manchester, in his role as Faculty Head of Internationalisation for India and Dr Laura Cohen, Royal Academy of Engineering’s (RAEng) Visiting Professor at Royce who is the former CEO of the British Ceramic Confederation (BCC).

Critical metals such as copper, cobalt, gallium, indium, rare earth, and platinum group metals are the raw materials for low-carbon technologies such as wind mill generators, solar panels, batteries, magnets, and EV vehicles, and are critical in the development of low-carbon industries globally.

The Critical Metals Industry includes mining, smelting, processing, and recycling, in which research and innovation plays an important role. UK and India face similar challenges in terms of building supply chain resilience in critical metals as both countries do not have very good sources of critical metals and minerals. They are largely dependent on a few countries for sourcing in their finished forms. There is recognition in both countries on the importance of building supply chain resilience in this area.

Working Party

The workshop saw discussions on future ways forward. There was particular interest identified from the Indian delegation in battery recycling (critical materials for anode cathode, electrolyte); magnets; novel battery technology; using less critical materials; design for end-of-life; photovoltaics; other sustainable materials, and waste streams from mining.

Exploration of materials is a UK Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) - India priority.

The November workshop follows an earlier kick-off meeting at the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay in Spring this year. This earlier meeting had mapped the India landscape to critical minerals strengths, challenges and opportunities for collaboration with the UK.

Mr Sudhendu J. Sinha , Adviser, NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India) who led the Indian delegation said, "Critical minerals is an important area of collaboration. It can possibly have focus on raising sensitivity through carefully crafted Awareness Programs, skill upgradation, technological collaboration, knowledge exchange and experience sharing and finally exploring Investment opportunities in the area of critical minerals between India and the UK. We sincerely hope this engagement to rise to meaningful and impactful levels. "

Joshua Bamford, representing the FCOD and Head of Tech and Innovation at the British High Commission New Delhi said, "The UK and Indian governments recognise the strategic importance of securing a sustainable supply of critical materials as well as the need for innovation and investment in the recycling of critical materials in order to drive forward technological transformation and the transition to net zero.

"This workshop has underscored the huge opportunities of continued collaboration between our governments, universities and industry to drive forward new innovations, share expertise and fast track new solutions to market.

"The UK government looks forward to delivering the next steps of this exciting partnership to deliver tangible benefits to the UK and India."

Dr. Laura Cohen said, "This was a very positive workshop, which demonstrated the huge potential for both countries to work together to translate these priority themes into tangible projects. A good example was the strong interest from a number of Indian battery recycling companies in initial work with Royce/ Manchester in exploring titanium recycling for battery casing.

"Both the UK and India delegates were also keen to use the learning from the Royce EconoMISER project, recognising the importance of ’application scientists’ in establishing industry needs and connecting this to academic expertise."

Prof. Aravind Vijayaraghavan added, "It was a pleasure to work with FCDO and Royce to host this delegation in Manchester, where a clear and significant potential was evidenced for both countries to work together to promote the circularity of critical materials. We will look forward to translating these engagement into highly impactful projects and long-term collaborations, as well as to explore joint commercial opportunities in both countries."

The Workshop included interdisciplinary UK delegates from the Universities of Manchester, Brunel and Surrey, the Henry Royce Institute, FCDO, key Indian technology Institutes and laboratories, Innovate UK as well as a number of Indian businesses who have activities associated with rare metals.

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