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Prof Lenny Koh welcomes local MEP to the University

Friday, September 22nd, 2017

Koh-Procter Procter-Hyatt

Prof Lenny Koh, director of the Advanced Resource Efficiency Centre (AREC) welcomed John Procter, MEP for Yorkshire & the Humber, to the University on 22 September.

Mr Procter and his adviser to the Yorkshire & the Humber region, Martin Dales, met with different departments at the University including the Management School, the Department of Materials Science and the Faculty of Social Sciences’ Impact and Knowledge Exchange (SSPIKE) team.

As the spokesman for Education and Culture, Mr Procter (pictured above with Prof Koh, right, and Shirley Harrison from the AMRC) has a keen interest in research at the University and was keen to see its facilities and learn more about ongoing projects. Prof Koh showed the visitors the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and cutting-edge laboratory facilities in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, which form part of the Sir Henry Royce Institute.

This visit follows AREC’s impact presentation at the European Parliament in Brussels. Mr Procter hosted the event, ‘Pathway to Global Policy, Industry and Societal Impact’, which showcased Prof Koh’s role in working towards environmental sustainability. At the event, she presented the Supply Chain Environmental Analysis Tool – Intelligence (SCEnATi), a cloud-based software in partnership with Microsoft, which helps businesses become more competitive and resource efficient, whilst reducing negative impacts on the environment.

On his visit, Mr Procter said: “I was impressed by the University of Sheffield. It was great to see first-hand the world-leading work produced right here in Yorkshire. The research has great implications for the region, as well as globally. In a world where the global supply chain relies on resources interconnection, it’s inspiring to see research which champions an inclusive, integrated approach to resource sustainability and efficiency.”

Prof Koh continued: “It was my privilege to show Mr Procter leading examples of Sheffield’s research. Our cross disciplinary environment, combined with a global outlook, shape our contribution to the region and beyond.”

Establishing pathways to resource efficiency and sustainability: Joining academia and industry

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

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Prof Lenny Koh, chair in operations management, recently co-hosted an event at the European Parliament, Brussels. Alongside John Procter, MEP for Yorkshire and Humber (European Conservatives and Reformists Group), she brought industry and academia together to showcase the research excellence and impact of the Sheffield-based Advanced Research Efficiency Centre (AREC).

Focusing on environmental sustainability, resource production and consumption efficiency, Lenny aimed to maximise the centre’s global outreach and gave an informative introduction to the Supply Chain Environmental Analysis Tool – Intelligence (SCEnATi), part of AREC’s research output.

SCEnATi is a tool used by leading organisations to map their supply chain and identify improvement opportunities in terms of economic, environmental and social factors by relying on the tool’s businesses intelligence capability integrated within the hybrid lifecycle analysis methodology.  Lenny emphasized the importance of global stakeholder collaboration using the examples of mobile phone manufacturing, use and after-life disposal, and changes to the motor industry.

Other panel members also presented their vision for greener supply chains and how researchers and industry can work closer together. They included Prof Panos Ketikidis (International Faculty of the University of Sheffield in Thessaloniki, Greece), Jay Sterling Gregg (European Energy Research Alliance), Philippe Micheaux Naudet (Association of Cities and Regions for Sustainable Resource Management) and Maria Rincon-Lievana (Circular Economy Action Plan).

A number of key points emerged from the following discussion, including the importance of interdisciplinary innovation to a greener economy, greening public procurement, investors and innovators collaborating on advancing science, energy storage and security, and the importance of the circular economy.

Reducing the environmental impact of a loaf of bread: SUMS leads interdisciplinary project

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

With an estimated 12 million loaves sold in the UK every day, bread remains a staple of the British diet. In a groundbreaking study researchers from the University of Sheffield have now calculated the environmental impact of a loaf of bread and which part of its production contributes the most greenhouse gas.

The group of interdisciplinary researchers from the University’s Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures, including three experts from Sheffield University Management School (SUMS), analysed the complete process from growing and harvesting the wheat; milling the grain; producing the flour; baking the bread and the production of the final product, ready to be sold by retailers.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Plants, show ammonium nitrate fertiliser used in wheat cultivation contributes almost half (43 per cent) of the greenhouse gas emissions – dwarfing all other processes in the supply chain.

Dr Liam Goucher, N8 Agrifood Research Fellow from the University of Sheffield who carried out the study and is based at SUMS, said: “Consumers are usually unaware of the environmental impacts embodied in the products they purchase – particularly in the case of food, where the main concerns are usually over health or animal welfare. There is perhaps awareness of pollution caused by plastic packaging, but many people will be surprised at the wider environmental impacts revealed in this study.

“We found in every loaf there is embodied global warming resulting from the fertiliser applied to farmers’ fields to increase their wheat harvest. This arises from the large amount of energy needed to make the fertilizer and from nitrous oxide gas released when it is degraded in the soil.”

How to produce sufficient healthy and affordable food for the world’s growing and more demanding population, whilst protecting the environment is one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century. It is estimated that up to 60 per cent of agricultural crops are now grown with the use of fertilisers. Although they can dramatically boast the growth of plants and vegetables – assisting the growing demand of food yields – fertilisers consist of substances and chemicals such as methane, carbon dioxide, ammonia and nitrogen. The emissions from these substances in synthetic fertilisers contribute to greenhouse gases.

Professor Peter Horton FRS, Chief Research Advisor to the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures at the University of Sheffield and corresponding author of the paper, said: “Our findings bring into focus a key part of the food security challenge – resolving the major conflicts embedded in the agri-food system, whose primary purpose is to make money not to provide sustainable global food security.

“High agricultural productivity – necessary for profit for farmers, agri-businesses and food retailers, whilst also keeping prices low for consumers – currently requires high levels of application of relatively cheap fertilisers.”

He added: “With over 100 million tonnes of fertiliser used globally each year to support agricultural production this is a massive problem, but environmental impact is not costed within the system and so there are currently no real incentives to reduce our reliance on fertiliser.

“How to achieve sustainable global food security is not only a technical question but a political economic one, and requires interdisciplinary research of the kind we do here at Sheffield.”

The study was made possible by a pioneering collaboration with the agricultural and food manufacturing sector developed by Richard Bruce, a co-author of the paper and Business Engagement Lead for the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures at the University of Sheffield.

The data analysed in the study was processed using an advanced life-cycle assessment tool – SCEnAT – developed by Professor Lenny Koh, Director of the Advanced Resource Efficiency Centre at the University’s Management School and co-author of the paper.

“This tool handles large and complex data sets and yielding data on the environmental impact, including greenhouse gas emissions of all the stages in the supply chain,” said Professor Koh. “The tool identifies the processes that yield the most impact – the hotspots. The findings raise a very important issue – whose responsibility is it to bring about the implementation of these interventions: the fertiliser manufacturer, the farmer, the retailer or the consumer?

“There is a growing recognition for a range of industrial processes of the notion of extended producer responsibility – the producer being responsible for downstream impact, expanded to the idea of shared producer and consumer responsibility. The consumer is key, whether being persuaded to pay more for a greener product or by applying pressure for a change in practice.”

The paper also highlights the solutions available which could potentially reduce these impacts in the future.

Co-author Professor Duncan Cameron, Co-director of the P3 Centre for Translational Plant and Soil Science explains: “The fertiliser problem is solvable – through improved agronomic practices”.

“These harness the best of organic farming combined with new technologies to better monitor the nutritional status of soils and plants and to recycle waste and with the promise of new wheat varieties able to utilise soil nitrogen more efficiently”.

Click here to read the paper in full.

SUMS Prof calls for industry intervention to reduce toxicological footprint

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

Lenny Koh

Scientists are calling for an increase in sustainable and less toxic material in global manufacturing as one way of firms reducing their toxicological footprint and combating climate change.

Research led by Professor Lenny Koh at the Management School and published in Nature Scientific Reports highlights toxicity and its impact on climate change.

By analysing data from the Toxic Release Inventory of the United States (US), Prof Koh’s team identified some key interventions to mitigate toxic chemical release’s impact on climate change – the analysis quantifies the contribution of population growth, changes in consumption volume, consumption structure, production structure and changes in emissions intensity on toxicology footprint. The findings will be helpful for decision makers to understand toxic chemical release and formulate effective mitigation standards and management protocols.

They found that there are many external influences on the US’s toxicological footprint, including economic recession and recovery patterns, population growth, change in consumption volume, production structure and emission intensity, all of which provide a narrative in explaining why and how toxicological footprint fluctuates in the data – for example, between 1999 and 2006 the toxicological footprint of the US decreased by 42 per cent, mainly driven by improvement in emissions intensity in the mining and quarrying sector.

Prof Koh, Director of Advanced Resource Efficiency Centre at the University of Sheffield, said: “We often see carbon dioxide levels and emissions measured, but toxicity also affects the environment and is rarely reported.

“In addition to understanding the drivers of the US’s toxicological footprint dynamics, our analysis assesses the efficacy of different drivers to reduce it in the future. Our results show the prominence the mining and quarrying sector in emissions, so I propose that a sectorial-focused approach should be designed to address reduction.”

Prof Ian Reaney, co-author from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, said: “This study has highlighted the strategic importance of understanding toxic chemical release, emphasising the need for more sustainable and less toxic materials and materials extraction in global manufacturing.”

Prof Klaus Hubacek, co-author from the University of Maryland, said: “This international collaboration provides an excellent base to advance our understanding of efficiency and structural aspects of an economy and their impact on the toxicological footprint.”

Click here to read the paper in full.

New analysis tool will help economy move towards a low-carbon and sustainable future

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

scenati

An analytics tool from the University of Sheffield, built in partnership with one of the world’s biggest technology companies, is helping decision makers understand the full environmental impact of their supply chains and the potential consequences of their decisions.

SCEnATi, the improved version of the SCEnAT supply chain environmental analysis tool, now integrates with the Microsoft cloud technology platform, Azure. It outputs on a world map geographic carbon dioxide emissions and environmental impact across global supply chains.

This powerful data visualisation – along with country profiles and sustainability contribution information – helps policy makers, planners, investors and industrialists understand the impact of their supply chains by calculating carbon dioxide emission intensity and environmental impact using life-cycle analysis.

As part of the improvements, SCEnATi has also been enhanced with advanced business intelligence analytics capability from the Microsoft Power BI platform, which works with Shaping Cloud on an Office 365 platform.

Teresa Hitchcock, Partner at global law firm DLA Piper where SCEnATi was launched said: “I am delighted to see the evolution of this research capability led by the University of Sheffield, especially the work from Professor Koh and her team. Being an industry member of the AREC committee, we have been involved in the work as part of a co-production process. I believe this tool will be an important enabler to assist key stakeholders in their transition to a low carbon and sustainable future globally and to support their compliance to environmental regulation and policy.”

Professor Lenny Koh, Chair in Operations Management at Sheffield University Management School and Director of Advanced Resource Efficiency Centre (AREC), said: “The supply chain resource sustainability model demonstrated in SCEnATi is powered by advanced technology and will grow our understanding of global challenges on resources critical in supply chains. The science which underpins SCEnATi has been published in top journals whilst the technology, provided by our strategic partner Microsoft, provides a flexible, secure environment for our users.”

Mike Davies, Higher Education Manager from Microsoft, continued: “SCEnATi automates data capture using Microsoft Excel where Office 365 supports complete mobility to enable users to use the tool as part of their routine package.

Steve Beswick, Education Business Development Director from Microsoft, said: “It is compatible with a range of our devices including Surface and Hubs. The built-in touch capability in this tool gives complete flexibility to users to access the tool anytime and anywhere.”

Carlos Oliveira, CEO of Shaping Cloud concluded: “The science and technology supporting SCEnATi is world leading. It is a great example of how academic research can be translated into a tangible piece of IP, which we believe can deliver real change and impact worldwide.”

Click here to find out more about SCEnATi: http://www.scenat.com/

Study demonstrates how academia and business can ensure sustainability of resources

Monday, October 17th, 2016

Lenny Koh

Collaboration between business and academia can identify the most urgent research priorities to ensure the sustainability of food, energy, water and the environment, according to a new study.

Companies both depend upon and impact the environment, yet their perspectives are often overlooked by the research community which lacks access to business thinking. Equally, businesses find it challenging to engage with the academic community, and to define researchable questions that would benefit from more detailed analysis.

This study, convened by the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), engaged over 250 people, including Prof Lenny Koh from the Management School and companies such as Asda, EDF Energy, HSBC and Nestlé, to co-produce research priorities that are scientifically feasible and also include outputs that can be practically implemented by the business community.

The project is part of the work of the Nexus Network, a network of researchers and stakeholders coordinated by CICL, the University of Sheffield, the University of Sussex, the University of East Anglia and the University of Exeter, and supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Prof Koh, co-author of the study and director of the Advanced Resource Efficiency Centre at the University of Sheffield, said: “This collaborative research shapes interesting research priorities using the nexus approach on food, energy, water and the environment. The co-design by leading academics and industry provides strategic directions to help address the global natural resources sustainability challenges. With the backing from ESRC, the nexus approach gives a platform to consider these challenges in an integrated way.”

“It links to the mission of the Sheffield University Management School, which integrates sustainability throughout its vibrant environments on research, learning and wider impact. Our involvement in Nexus2020 research is an excellent example demonstrating our sustainability leadership in this field.”

Several themes emerged from this study, highlighting the issues that require more research and better engagement between the academic and business communities. These included research around development of pragmatic yet credible tools that allow businesses to incorporate the interactions between food, energy and water demands in a changing environment into their decision-making; the role of social considerations and livelihoods in business decision-making in relation to sustainable management; identification of the most effective levers for behaviour change; and understanding incentives or circumstances that allow individuals and businesses to take a leadership stance on these issues.

It will be the role of multi-disciplinary groups of researchers and business practitioners to devise the projects that will deliver the solutions to these pressing issues around food, energy, water and the environment.

The damage is already done: Greater environmental risks identified in ‘green’ material

Monday, October 17th, 2016

Lenny Koh

Expertise from a University of Sheffield research team, comprising two leading departments, has used life cycle analysis to find that legislation proposing the replacement of a common material has led to wider use of an even more toxic substance.

Professors Ian Reaney (Materials Science and Engineering) and Lenny Koh (Management School, pictured above) undertook the first comparative life cycle analysis of piezoelectric materials as part of an EPSRC project. Their findings indicate that a replacement for lead zirconate titanate (PZN), recommended by global authorities due to its green credentials, is more dangerous to the environment.

The mining and production process for the recommended replacement, potassium sodium niobate (KNN), releases heavy metals and radioactive materials and has a significant adverse effect on air quality, water quality and the land. By applying life cycle analysis to both materials, Reaney and Koh were able to identify that harmful effects of KNN took hold on the environment prior to using the material – the damage was done before it even reached manufacturers meaning that EU legislators could have been unaware of its implications.

These findings will have a significant impact on global policy and the manufacturing sector. Piezoelectric materials are used in a wide array of products and projects including sensors, military hardware, generators and smart structures – global demand for the material is estimate at $1billion with an annual growth rate ten per cent.

Prof Koh, co-investigator on the research, said: “Our findings demonstrate the pivotal role of life cycle analysis in determining the environmental sustainability of substitutions of materials. Materials scientists, engineers and industry must consider the life cycle impact of materials in design and manufacture before deciding on the preferred substituted choice. Legislative bodies play a leading role in enforcing such responsibility in order to protect the scarcity and criticality of materials resources and prevent unsustainable practices.”

The main findings of this study were recently published by the Royal Society of Chemistry in the Energy and Environmental Science Journal. Lead author on the paper, Dr Taofeeq Ibn-Mohammed, is an ESPRC research associate and works with Professor Koh at two centres linked with the Management School, the Advanced Resource Efficiency Centre and the Centre for Energy, Environment and Sustainability. Of the work, he said: “Overall, the research demonstrates that application of life cycle analysis and supply chain management to a strategic engineering question allows industries and policy makers to make informed decisions regarding the environmental consequences of substitute materials, designs, fabrication processes and usage.”

Professor Reaney, principal investigator on the project, concluded: “The research has strong implications for future legislation concerning piezoelectrics within the European Union and worldwide.”

Management School to assist in design of major new Pilot Plant

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

The UK Centre for Carbon Utilisation (CDUUK) at the University of Sheffield recently won a competitive tender to join a team to design a new carbon capture and utilisation plant for the Tees Valley. The contract pairs the University of Sheffield with the Teeside Collective a pioneering infrastructure project who are at the forefront of innovative carbon capture and usage technology. The collective are working together to establish Europe’s first clean industrial zone. Prof Lenny Koh, chair in operations management at the Management School, is a member of the CDUUK board.

CDUUK are academic specialists from across seven departments (Chemical and Biological Engineering, Materials Science Engineering, Mechanical Science, Chemistry, Physics and Astronomy, Management School and Psychology) who will bring a range of interdisciplinary expertise to the Collective. CDUUK will be designing the demonstration centre and commercial and operating models of this ground breaking project.

The move comes as the Government formulates its policy on decarbonisation in the light of the cancellation in November of funding for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in the power sector. A policy review is due to be published by Lord Oxburgh, who visited Teesside to hear about the Collective’s plans as part of his review.

Professor Peter Styring, Chair of CDUUK, commented: “The impact of the proposed carbon capture and utilisation demonstration centre cannot be underestimated, helping more heavy industrial companies decarbonise their facilities and explore innovative uses for carbon and income streams. Utilisation of CO2 is gaining momentum globally and this will put the UK at the forefront of that effort”

CDUUK provides a cohesive centre for interdisciplinary research into carbon dioxide utilization in Sheffield. Using a co-ordinated approach to research and a strategic approach to funding opportunities the Centre is at the forefront of CDU research in the UK.

Teesside Collective are a cluster of leading industries with a shared vision: to establish Teesside as the go-to location for future clean industrial development by creating Europe’s first Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) equipped industrial zone. Tees Valley Unlimited, the Local Enterprise Partnership which includes the Teesside industrial cluster, has been awarded £1m funding by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change to develop a business case for deploying industrial CCS in the Teesside cluster and to make recommendations for a funding mechanism.

Making the sustainable choice – embedding Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) in the materials and manufacturing supply chain

Friday, April 29th, 2016

Tata-Brimacombe-SUMS

A fascinating partnership between researchers at the Management School and the Faculty of Engineering led to a recent sell-out event, with industry leaders at the heart of it.

A number of industry delegates from throughout Europe joined academics at the University of Sheffield on 22 April 2016 for the Materials Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) Workshop, a one-day event organised jointly between the Advanced Resource Efficiency Centre (AREC) and EPSRC funded projects ‘Designing Alloys for Resource Efficiency’ (DARE) and ‘Substitution and Sustainability in Functional Materials and Devices’ (SUbST).

The morning consisted of presentations on major materials innovation projects and real industry cases, given by leading academics and representatives from industry, focusing on the current and future trends of LCA and how this can aid decision-making to achieve resource efficiency and sustainability in an organisation.

The keynote presentation was given by Louis Brimacombe, head of environmental technology at Tata Steel, who explained how LCA has a role in understanding the benefits of a circular economy, where not only environmental considerations but also the social and economic performances of a material are crucial for making sustainable decisions.

Following his presentation, Louis Brimacombe (pictured above) said: “LCA is core in achieving sustainability across supply chains. It not only helps industry makes informed decisions, but identifies where we can improve resource efficiency, sustainability and circular economy.”

During the afternoon, delegates split into working groups to discuss current issues including: why current materials life cycle is not sustainable; how science and research can help to make it more sustainable in the future; the stakeholders who should be involved, and the support and resources required to achieve this. Feedback from this session introduced some exciting new ideas and concepts.

At the end of the workshop one of the main organisers of the event, Professor Lenny Koh from Sheffield University Management School, who is also the director of AREC, said: “This event, which delegates agree should become annual, has evidenced the important role and influence of supply chain LCA in resource efficiency and the sustainability of materials supply chains in flagship projects at the University of Sheffield, including DARE, SUbST and SIMULIFE. LCA must be designed into the development stages of any new materials or products/services to search for the most sustainable option before scale-up. For existing materials, products and services, their life cycle must be continuously assessed through LCA.”

Presentations and a summary of breakout discussions will be posted at www.darealloys.org/news in the next few days.

 

For information on the following, email:
AREC and LCA: Lenny Koh (s.c.l.koh@sheffield.ac.uk)
DARE: Mark Rainforth (m.rainforth@sheffield.ac.uk) or Jean Simpson (jean.simpson@sheffield.ac.uk)
SUbST: Ian Reaney (i.m.reaney@sheffield.ac.uk)

From the plough to the plate: reducing environmental impact and improving efficiency

Friday, December 11th, 2015

One of Britain’s biggest and best-loved bread makers has joined forces with University researchers and a leading agricultural intelligence provider, to better understand the impact its activities are having on the environment – from the plough to the plate.

“It’s important for Hovis to know where the environmental hotspots in their supply chain are,” says Management School supply chain and energy efficiency researcher, Dr Liam Goucher. “By working with us, we can help them identify those hotspots and develop targeted solutions that both reduce the impact on the environment and make them more efficient as a company.”

Using real-world data ranging from the energy consumption of its ovens and mills, to the volume of fertiliser used on its farmers’ fields, members of a multidisciplinary research team are now undertaking analysis using the Supply Chain Environmental Analysis Tool (SCEnAT) developed by Professor Lenny Koh at the University’s Advanced Resource Efficiency Centre.

“This tool allows us to pin point where the weak points in a supply chain are and assess their impact across a range of environmental indicators,” says Professor Koh. Early results, which are currently being poured over by Hovis and independent agricultural intelligence services company, Agrii.

“What makes this project especially interesting to a company like Hovis, is that once we have identified and quantified environmental impact throughout the supply chain, the members of our multidisciplinary team are able to develop viable and sustainable interventions to address key problem areas,” says Dr Liam Goucher, who has undertaken much of the original research.

Whether it is a way to reduce the energy inputs needed to bake the more than 60 million loaves annually in a single bakery, or the development of novel seed varieties and production techniques, the Sheffield team has the intellectual resource to design these solutions.

But for biochemist, Professor Peter Horton, of the University’s Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures, this specific piece of research has much wider implications. “We know that big challenges such as sustainable food production will not be met by research within a single discipline. That’s why we are so passionate about the integration of science, engineering and social science here at Sheffield. By creating teams like this we can not only identify the problems, we can also design the sustainable solutions,” he added.