University of Birmingham launches technology-critical materials panel

The University of Birmingham has convened a panel of experts to develop a strategy for the future supply of technology-critical materials.
University of Birmingham launches technology-critical materials panel

Chaired by former government chief scientific adviser, Sir John Beddington, the commission will develop ways to manage the expected increase in demand for certain materials as we move towards an electricity-based society. Commissioners include specialists in policy, technology, trade, regulation, ethics, and national security. 

The Policy Commission was launched on Monday and will report at the end of March 2020.

Strategic elements such as rare earths, cobalt, and platinum group metals are vital to the UK economy, as they form components of many modern technologies in the automotive, energy generation, robotics, and electronics sectors.

However, the supply of critical materials is restricted by a range of geological, economic, technological, and political factors. 

Developing a strategy to secure supply while minimising environmental and social impacts is therefore key.

Dr Paul Anderson, co-director of the Birmingham Centre for Strategic Elements and Critical Materials (BCSECM) and one of the commission’s convenors, said: “It’s vital that the UK adopts a coherent strategy on critical materials. 

"For the most part this has been managed at an EU level – the UK now needs to gain a clear understanding of the global supply chain and how the UK fits into this.”

Through its Centre for Strategic Elements and Critical Materials, the University of Birmingham has expertise in the area.

BCSECM co-director Professor Allan Walton said: “Our aim is to provide the momentum and clarity needed to help develop a UK elements strategy and to secure the national political support required for this.”