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Coventry University wins ‘Times Higher Education Award’

Sebastian Farnaud (white jacket) and Coventry University colleagues collect the Times Higher Education award at a ceremony in Liverpool from Sandi Toksvig


Coventry University wins ‘Times Higher Education Award’

Coventry University has won a Times Higher Education (THE) Award for a project which uses bacteria to recover precious metals from electronic waste. 

The work led by the university’s Research Centre for Health and Life Sciences and Research Centre for Manufacturing and Materials in collaboration with IT disposal firm Network 2 Supplies (N2S) saw Coventry University awarded the Knowledge Exchange/Transfer Initiative of the Year prize at a ceremony in Liverpool.

Sebastian Farnaud, Professor of Bio-innovation & Enterprise at the Research Centre for Health and Life Sciences:

“We are delighted that this project has been recognised by the Times Higher Education Awards and is a testament not only to Coventry University’s and N2S’ hard work, but also to our dedication to tackling global sustainability challenges such as clean growth and climate change.”

Of the 50 million tonnes of electronic waste generated globally each year, only 15 to 20 per cent is recycled, with the vast majority shipped overseas to be burned in highly polluting extraction processes. Rare metals such as lithium, silver, copper and platinum valued at £47 billion annually are also lost in this way. Lithium is vital to the electric battery industry and the shift to net zero and clean growth.

N2S and Coventry University researchers developed innovative solutions to recover these metals from the millions of printed circuit boards thrown away every year. The electrochemical methods created in the laboratory were later transferred to an industrial context – the first time that “bioleaching” had been applied in e-waste recovery.

The judges were impressed with the “interdisciplinary approach to a growing environmental issue”, adding: “The embedding of this expertise within the company has transformed the business into a true leader in this area. The partnership has continued to innovate, demonstrating the synergistic nature of the relationship.”

John Gill, THE’s editor:

“After 19 years, hundreds of winners and many thousands of entries, one might expect to get used to the amazing examples of excellence highlighted by the Times Higher Education Awards. But the sheer depth of innovation, talent and dedication that exists at every level of universities across the UK and Ireland never fails to impress. From examples of individuals making extraordinary contributions, to teams and cross-departmental initiatives leading the way, our winners exemplify the broad spectrum of ways in which universities are excelling and making a difference.”

Professor John Latham CBE, Vice-Chancellor and CEO of Coventry University Group noted that their ‘approach to research is built around co-creation where we work with and for the end users of our research to make an impact on the big global challenges facing society.’ Latham added, ‘The judges recognised this innovative work with NS2 is making genuine strides in the drive for net zero, clean growth and a circular economy.’

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