UK Research and Innovation Funding to Boost Circular Economy for Plastics

£20m Plastics Research and Innovation Fund to Increase Reuse & Recycling

A £20 million fund has been launched in the UK to explore new ideas and innovations that can bring changes in the plastics manufacturing industry and increase reuse and recycling.


A £20 million fund has been launched in the UK to explore new ideas and innovations that can bring changes in the plastics manufacturing industry and increase reuse and recycling as part of a move to a more circular economy.

The Plastics and Research Innovation Fund (PRIF) will engage Britain’s best scientists and innovators to help move the country towards more circular economic and sustainable approaches to plastics.

It will be managed by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and delivered via the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Innovate UK, and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). .

“There’s been incredible progress in making people aware of the danger that plastic can do to our environment and our oceans. Today we are announcing a £20 million fund for our best scientists and researchers through UKRI to come up with new technology and also new plastics that do not harm the environment so much. This means moving from our current model of make, use and dispose to a new model where you use, you reuse and you recycle,” said Science Minister Sam Gyimah.

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport said: “It is imperative we change our use and misuse of plastic.  Although plastics have transformed the way we live and play an important role in many aspects of modern life, we are increasingly aware of the devastating damage plastic waste can inflict on the environment and people’s health.  This fund will help to create the range of new approaches and alternatives needed to rapidly reverse the impact that our use of plastics is having on the planet.”

Exchequer Secretary Robert Jenrick added: “We are tackling the issue of plastic waste to protect our environment for future generations. One important part of this will be backing the creation of innovative products and methods of recycling plastic.

“We are also looking at how the tax system or charges can support our ambitions. Our recent call for evidence for views on this attracted a record 130,000 responses from the public, which shows just how important an issue this is.”

The fund will have three parts which will involve:

  • Leadership and Knowledge Exchange: UK Circular Plastics Network funding ~ £2 million
  • Research: Plastics ‘Creativity’ funding ~ £8 million
  • Business led research and development: Plastics ‘Innovation’ funding ~ £10 million

UKRI will work together with the sustainability experts WRAP to network and connect this fund with initiatives across business, government and the research and innovation community, to encourage knowledge exchange, and to identify future research and innovation priorities to enable the move to a circular plastics economy. 

The fund will seek to deliver strategic networking and research that will coordinate existing knowledge across the UK; catalysing new ideas and rapid solutions across the research and innovation landscape. It will support the polymer, packaging, retail and waste sectors as well as local government responsible for waste collection.

Professor Duncan Wingham, UKRI’s Lead for the fund and Executive Chair of the Natural Environment Research Council, said: “This Fund will bring the strength of UKRI’s entire portfolio, from environment to technology to business to behaviour and regulation, to bear on this pressing and very widely recognised problem. In addition, it will draw on the expertise of partners who have been working in the waste reduction and recycling arena for some time.”

UKRI brings together the UK Research Councils, Innovate UK and Research England into a single organisation to create the best environment for research and innovation to flourish. 

Plastics innovation: towards zero waste
UK businesses can apply for a share of up to £4 million to develop new solutions to reduce persistent plastics entering our environment: Further information on the competition.

Creative Circular Economy Approaches to Eliminate Plastics Waste
Up to £8 million is available for institutional awards for up to 18 months to research organisations to bridge the gaps between UK Research and Innovation research disciplines and respond creatively to the challenge of creating new circular economy approaches to eliminating future plastic waste. Further information on the call.

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