School of Social and Political Science

New research hub to transform foundation industries


Edinburgh researchers have joined a research consortium examining how the foundation industries - chemicals, cement, ceramics, glass, metals and paper – can prosper and develop while helping achieve the UK’s Net Zero 2050 environmental targets.

TransFIRe (Transforming Foundation Industries Research and Innovation hub) was developed to transform these industries, which produce 75% of all materials in the UK economy and are vital for the UK’s manufacturing and construction industries.

Together, the foundation industries are worth £52b to the UK economy and produce 28 million tonnes of materials per year, accounting for about 10% of the UK’s total CO2 emissions.

A focus on the environmental and socio-economic impacts

The University of Edinburgh’s Professor Steven Yearley is part of the new consortium and will focus on the socio-economic component of this hub, which is concerned with the environmental and socio-economic impacts of the way decarbonisation is handled in the UK’s foundation industries.

Steven Yearley, Professor of the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge at the School of Social and Political Science, said: “The foundation industries are key to a lot of things that we will still want as we decarbonise – aluminium for electric vehicle wheels for example. If we don’t want simply to import all these materials, the UK’s foundation industries will need to make profound changes over the next 25 years. At the same time we need to think about the implications for local communities and the impacts on local environmental quality.”

Expertise from social sciences

Steve will draw on his roles as Co-Director of the Centre for Science, Knowledge and Policy (SKAPE) and as Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH) - both based at the University of Edinburgh – to bring in expertise from across the social sciences and neighbouring disciplines.

The project has also just appointed a Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Dr Kyle Parker, also based in the School of Social and Political Science at Edinburgh.

A self-sustaining hub of expertise

TransFIRe is a consortium of 20 researchers from 12 institutions, 49 companies and 14 non-governmental organisations related to the sectors, with expertise across the foundation industries.

This programme will develop a self-sustaining hub of expertise to support the foundation industries' transformation into non-polluting, resource-efficient, modern, competitive manufactories working in harmony with the communities in which they are situated.

They will provide attractive places to be employed, with unparalleled equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) performance.

Pooling ideas and solutions

Bruce Adderley, challenge director of UKRI’s Transforming Foundation Industries challenge, said: “The research hub represents a crucial step forward in addressing innovation in these industries, by introducing a more collaborative environment to share knowledge and experiences.

“There are so many opportunities, challenges and processes that cross over between the different foundation industries, so having a central resource to pool ideas and solutions can help remove some of the inefficiencies and hurdles to innovation that exist in different parts of the sector.”

TransFIRe is led by Cranfield University and includes investigators from Edinburgh, Bangor, Cambridge, Cardiff, Durham, Exeter, Leeds, Northumbria, Sheffield Hallam and York universities and the British Geological Survey.

Find out more

Science, Technology and Innovation Studies at the School of Social and Political Science

Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH) at the University of Edinburgh

Centre for Science, Knowledge and Policy (SKAPE) at the University of Edinburgh