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Net-Zero carbon targets for the Foundation Industries threatened by the energy crisis

Foundation Industries are coming to terms with what the current UK energy crisis means for the future of manufacturing and sustainability.

The rising cost of energy had put tremendous strain on Foundation Industries prior to the current crisis, with the latest cost increases further exacerbating sector challenges and threatening the existence of such industries. Rising gas and energy prices and an uncertain import supply are negatively affecting manufacturing production and processes. Sectors risk being impacted long term as the cost of the energy crisis could degrade investment in innovation, talent and transformation. 

The UK Foundation Industries, consisting of the metal, paper, glass, ceramics, cement and bulk chemicals sectors, are some of the most energy and gas-intensive manufacturers in the country. Over the last year, gas prices have more than quadrupled. The supply chain has also been heavily impacted, with demand for gas in China increasing by 8% and geopolitical uncertainty surrounding supplies to Europe and the UK. 

Some steelmakers have halted work during peak power usage hours to mitigate financial implications and reserve supply, while glassmakers are partially closing furnaces, risking equipment failure and reducing production.

Foundation Industries are facing increased pressure to find more sustainable manufacturing technologies to attain Net-Zero by 2050 but without significant funding, businesses will struggle to invest sufficiently in research, skills and training to meet these targets while maintaining production levels. 

“Foundation industries are facing the question of how to invest in a Net-Zero future while managing the effects of the pandemic and the implications of the energy crisis” – Professor Ian Reaney, Transforming Foundation -Industries Network+ Director

“Businesses need to invest urgently to be future-proof and meet sustainability targets. However, the current energy crisis is making it harder for businesses to decide how best to invest the limited resources in transformational research.” – Professor Susan Bernal Lopez, Transforming Foundation Industries Network+ Co-Director

Recent studies by UKRI showed only half of the Foundation Industry businesses had introduced new working practises within the last three years(1), with the Covid pandemic expected to further impact this. Sectors require investment in skills development and outreach to attract new talent, allowing for new innovation and ideas to thrive. The energy crisis risks impacting the Foundation Industries on their path to Net-Zero, presenting setbacks in the availability of resources and ability to achieve significant sustainability goals. 

About the Network

The UKRI-ISCF Transforming Foundation Industries (TFI) Network Plus aims to assist the foundation industries to remain competitive whilst simultaneously facing challenges from environmental legislation and the drive towards Net-Zero carbon 2050. Launched in February 2021, the core aim of TFI Network+ is to co-create with the Foundation Industries new science and technology that can transform their sustainability and performance by coordinating and channelling a wide range of expertise throughout UK academia in themes such as energy efficiency, circular economy, new generation processes and manufacturing informatics.

TFI Network is funded by Engineering and Physical Science Research Council. The Network offers small project grants to support research, transformation and collaboration across the six sectors of the foundation industries. Becoming a member of the Network allows you to advertise your expertise or business requirements to other members, identify other members who may have similar research areas for collaboration and submit applications for small project grants. Visit https://tfinetworkplus.org/ to become a member.

(1) https://www.enterpriseresearch.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/ERC-Report-Innovation-Readiness-in-UK-Foundation-Industries.pdf

Published: October 19th, 2021
Posted in TFI Network+ News


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