University to receive million pound funding for plastics recycling research and innovation

Male scientist in lab coat working with samples

The Solent LEP will use the Government's 'Getting Building Fund’ allocation to finance the expansion of the Centre for Enzyme Innovation

  • 06 August 2020
  • 3 min read

Pioneering research from the University of Portsmouth that aims to find a solution to the global plastic pollution crisis is to share in £15.9 million of investment from the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

The Solent LEP will use the Government's 'Getting Building Fund’ allocation to finance the expansion of the University’s Centre for Enzyme Innovation (CEI), which takes enzymes from the natural environment and adapts them in the laboratory to recycle and reuse some of our most polluting plastics. The CEI will receive £1m investment from the Solent LEP.

The CEI is one of several projects that have been funded by the Solent LEP, who play a leading role in determining economic priorities in the region. The projects will benefit the region's economic recovery in the post-Covid-19 pandemic environment.

The funding from the Solent LEP to support the development of the CEI will deliver significant economic and societal benefits and clearly delivers our ambitions for research with impact and sustainability as set out in our vision for 2030.

Professor Graham Galbraith, Vice-Chancellor

The CEI Expansion - Industrial Engagement Hub project will almost double the current size of the CEI and create three new specialist laboratories, to bridge the gap between the current research capabilities and what this technology needs to develop into in order to be adopted by industry.

In addition, the Industrial Engagement Hub will be a space for interaction between researchers and industry collaborators and become a testbed for growing local and national partnerships.

Professor Graham Galbraith, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Portsmouth, said: “The CEI is a unique environment for industry and academia to work together to shape, refine, develop and test the new technologies emerging from this ground-breaking research.

“The funding from the Solent LEP to support the development of the CEI will deliver significant economic and societal benefits and clearly delivers our ambitions for research with impact and sustainability as set out in our vision for 2030.”

The scale and urgency of the plastic pollution problem is a global issue. We require a step-change in recycling science and technologies to solve this problem and the CEI is key to delivering this transformation.

Professor Andy Pickford, CEI Operations Director

The CEI was established in June 2019 following £5.8 million funding from Research England as part of the Government’s modern Industrial Strategy. Its aim is to discover and engineer new enzymes that break down plastics and then to work with industry partners to transform the research into real-world solutions. The work stems from previous research, led by Professor John McGeehan at the University of Portsmouth, which engineered an enzyme that could digest polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic, returning it to its original monomers, or building blocks.

Further recognition of the CEI’s excellence came in November 2019 when the PETase engineering project was awarded the Times Higher Education STEM Research Project of the Year.

CEI Operations Director, Professor Andy Pickford said: “The scale and urgency of the plastic pollution problem is a global issue. We require a step-change in recycling science and technologies to solve this problem and the CEI is key to delivering this transformation. This crucial funding will allow us to enhance our state-of-the-art facilities and world-leading expertise to not only drive forward scientific breakthroughs, but also provide the capacity and capability for translating that new knowledge into real-world solutions.

“The investment will also lead to economic growth, both within the region and nationally, as we drive the translation of the applied research towards viable industrial processes that will support a more sustainable, circular economy.”

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