iCAST – a project led by Bath Uni to accelerate the UK’s zero-carbon agenda

By Nick Batten on 18 November, 2021

The University of Bath’s Centre for Sustainable and Circular Technologies (CSCT) is leading the launch of a major new innovation hub, bringing together core partners in academia and industry to accelerate the UK’s transition to net-zero carbon emissions.

In 2020, the UK Government set an ambitious target to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and create up to 250,000 green jobs in the process. However, there is an innovation gap that needs to be filled for these green goals to be met.

The new Innovation Centre for Applied Sustainable Technologies (iCAST) is offering a solution as an R&D and collaboration hub for companies working on clean growth technologies. It will focus on translating sustainable chemical technology research into commercial products to tackle the global challenges of climate emergency, sustainable development and plastic pollution.

The £17 million facility with a hub in Swindon is backed by the Research England Development Fund, an initiative from UKRI that drives innovation in research and knowledge exchange in higher education.

iCAST brings together industry with expertise at the Universities of Bath and Oxford, the High-Value Manufacturing Catapult’s Sustainability Partnership (National Composites Centre and Centre for Process Innovation), innovation experts at SETsquared, the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership (SWLEP) and investors.

Paddy Bradley, Chief Executive Officer of Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said,“This is truly an exciting collaboration and couldn’t come at a more crucial time. iCAST is a significant step forward in reaching the goal of not only changing the way the world thinks but also how we behave to prevent further damage to our natural environment.

“We need business, academia and technology to harmonise as we advance towards a genuinely circular economy and iCAST is a partnership opportunity allowing us to meet today’s challenges.”

The Centre’s core job is to provide agile and flexible support for businesses to scale up new sustainable technologies and bring them to market. Critically, it will deliver proof-of-principle, scale-up and feasibility studies to accelerate how soon cutting-edge sustainable concepts will mature so that focus can be placed on those with the largest potential impacts.

Professor Matthew Davidson, Director of iCAST and CSCT and Whorrod Professor of Sustainable Circular Technologies at the University of Bath, explained, “There is currently a translation gap between publicly funded investment into fundamental research and its deployment by UK companies. iCAST will address this gap by enabling companies to easily invest in R&D in a collaborative and agile environment and by providing specialist business support for innovations to be deployed commercially.

“By partnering companies with the critical mass of research expertise at Bath and at Oxford, iCAST will accelerate scale-up of new technologies, deliver economic impact, and build supply chains, jobs and growth in the UK.”

While the research home of iCAST will be at the Universities of Bath and Oxford, its central office will be located in Swindon’s iconic Carriage Works. The Swindon space will also host creative Hub events too including meetings, workshops and creative events to bring together members and work on different innovative projects. This off-campus location provides a dedicated place where iCAST’s partners can work together on the Centre’s mission. Swindon itself provides national and international connectivity for iCAST businesses in the heart of the region’s WesternGateway Powerhouse innovation system, as well as close proximity to the lab facilities in Bath and Oxford.

The partnership already has more than 45 member companies ranging from spinouts, high growth SMEs and multinational corporates including Unilever, Wessex Water, Total Corbion PLA, Naturbeads and Recycling Technologies.

The launch will take place tomorrow (19th November) at the Carriage Works in Swindon from 2-4.30pm.