Fiona Charnley, Senior Lecturer in Circular Innovation at Cranfield University, is heading up a £775,000 research project investigating how data can be captured from products that are in use, in order to identify ways to make them last longer through reuse, refurbishment and remanufacture.

The project, known as ‘Circular4.0: Data Driven Intelligence for a Circular Economy’, aims to develop new knowledge, tools and methodologies which will allow organisations to capture data throughout the lifecycle of their products and make informed decisions on the most appropriate circular economy strategy.

Moving to a circular economy, where resources are kept in use for as long as possible before products and materials are recovered and reused at the end of each service life, could benefit UK businesses by as much as £23 billion a year.

Project partners include: the University of Sheffield, Airbus Group Ltd, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Manufacturing Technology Centre, RiverSimple, Cisco Systems and Rolls-Royce plc.

The funding for the research project comes from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), which has awarded £11.4 million to seven projects which aim to create novel digital tools, techniques and processes that will support the translation of digital capabilities into the manufacturing sector.

Dr Charnley said: “Moving away from a society where products have limited lifespans and are thrown away at the end to a circular model could benefit the UK by up to £23 billion a year.

“By using data, we can help manufacturers understand more about their products, how they can be restored, how they can be reused and how they can be retained in use.”

Announcing the award, EPSRC’s Executive Chair, Professor Philip Nelson, said: “The adoption of advanced ICT techniques in manufacturing provides an enormous opportunity to improve growth and productivity within the UK.

“The effective implementation of these new technologies requires a multidisciplinary approach and these projects will see academic researchers working with a large number of industrial partners to fully harness their potential, which could generate impact across many sectors.”

About Cranfield University

Cranfield University is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.