Nottingham innovation project selected for international competition

Posted on 9 Nov 2023 by James Devonshire

A collaborative innovation project involving the University of Nottingham, which aims to create a portable facility that can convert waste into chemicals to be used to build medical devices, has been awarded €1.5m as part of an international competition.

The SPRIND Challenge ‘Circular Biomanufacturing’ is a three-year competition hosted by the Federal Agency for Disruptive Innovation in Germany. More than 50 groups applied from across the globe, with eight being selected for the first stage to develop novel bioprocessing techniques that will contribute to a circular economy.

The MATERI-8 project will use bacteria to eat waste and convert it into acrylic molecules, that can then be mixed with other monomers to create polymers that can be used in additive manufacturing to create medical devices. The team is planning to build a bespoke containerised system to enable local utilisation of the technology, meaning countries that suffer from a continuous stream of waste can benefit too.

Assistant Professor Sam Bryan, from the University of Nottingham’s Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, said: “Securing funding as part of the SPRIND challenge is an incredibly exciting step for this project, as it’s giving us the opportunity to turn our research into reality and make a real difference to countries that are swamped with waste but don’t have the facilities to deal with it.

“This next 12 months are going to be vital as we focus on proving the process can work. From there we’d look to progress to the next stage of the competition where we’d receive more funding to develop a continuous biomanufacturing system that will be able to make products via additive manufacturing printing techniques. We’ve got a great team that’s committed to turning waste into something useful rather than leaving it to pollute the planet, so to have been recognised and selected for that is something we’re incredibly proud of.”

During the first stage of the project, the group will focus on getting the bacteria to chew up material mixtures coming from different types of textiles, greenhouse cultivation by-products, such as contaminated paprika stems, and microplastics, identifying the optimum process for creating a platform chemical.

Alongside Sam, the team includes Professor Derek Irvine, Dr Anca Pordea and Dr Luisa Ciano (University of Nottingham), Dr Patricia Parlevliet (Green Pearl Innovation) and Professor Wolfgang Streit (Universität Hamburg).

Dr Patricia Parlevliet, Innovation Consultant at Green Pearl Innovation, said: ”My goal is to bring science that can accelerate the transition to a circular (bio)economy to market. I am thrilled that I can help Sam and the team translate their research into innovative products that help mitigate further pollution of our environment by turning mixed-material waste streams into single chemicals for personalised healthcare products.”

Professor Wolfgang Streit, Faculty of Mathematics, Informatics and Natural Sciences at Universität Hamburg, said: “This is a great success and important step towards developing a truly sustainable recycling process for plastics.”

To see the full list of SPRIND awardees, please click here.

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