Looking Back on UKCPN's Involvement at MRE 2020

Posted on Posted on 3 Apr 2020

Read our round-up of Materials Research Exchange 2020, which took place 18th-20th February in London.

Materials Research Exchange 2020, Innovate UK & KTN’s flagship materials event of the year, was held on 18th – 20th February at the Business Design Centre in London. The event played host to over 90 speakers, more than 80 exhibitors and welcomed over 800 delegates through its doors over the two main days of the conference. the event was headline sponsored by The Henry Royce Institute with further sponsorship from Dstl and EPSRC.


Seminar sessions covered the full spectrum of the materials world, focusing on everything from materials in health to aerospace, 2D materials, the electrification of transport batteries, metamaterials and beyond, while sustainability remained a key theme throughout. The diversity of exhibitors was also evident, with a well-represented mix of academia and industry showcasing their position in the materials landscape. You can still view the full list of exhibitors on the MRE website here, while speakers can be viewed here. Exhibitors included The Henry Royce Institute, Advanced Coating Solutions, Blue Castle, BSI, the University of Exeter Centre for Metamaterial Research and Innovation, Dstl, the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, Indestructible Paints Ltd., IOM3, The University of Manchester, National Physical Laboratory, Potter Clarkson LLP, Drochaid, Strem Chemicals UK Ltd., Tecman UK and the University of Leeds, amongst several others.


If you wish to refresh your memory on the whole programme you can do so here and the full electronic version of the programme which was distributed at the event is available to peruse here.

The Village Green Left on Day 2 played host to the UK Circular Plastic Network’s full day of talks, covering the £140m Smart Sustainable Plastics Packaging (SSPP) ISCF challenge with speakers including KTN’s Dr. Sally Beken and Veronica Sanchez-Romaguera plus the SSPP Challenge Director, Paul Davidson and the Deputy Challenge Director, Nick Cliffe. The afternoon session covered the implications of recycled/novel materials and food contact with speakers from the Food Standards AgencyBSI and Fera Science Ltd.


UKCPN Programme Lead, Dr. Sally Beken, kicked off our session at MRE 2020 on UK actions towards zero waste, stressing the ubiquity of plastics, how we must make them “fit for the future” and how we must influence a change in our behaviours to solve the plastics problem. Sally also discussed some of the products funded under the Plastics Research & Innovation Fund.  Dr. Veronica Sanchez-Romaguera of KTN’s Materials Team discussed UKCPN’s events to date and highlighted our questionnaire to help us understand challenges in reducing plastic waste. Paul Davidson, Challenge Director of the Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Fund at UKRI ran through the SSPP challenge aims, including delivering cleaner growth across the UK supply “loop” and reducing plastic waste from entering the environment. Paul explained how one third of plastic packaging which is produced globally is lost to the environment, underpinning the need for the Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging challenge. Paul also ran through the aims of the UK Plastics Pact, which includes 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable/recyclable/compostable and 70% of plastic packaging to be effectively recycled or composted by 2025. 


Dr. Emma Bradley, Head of Programme – Food Quality & Safety, Fera Science Ltd., discussed food contact safety and how we must consider the chemicals that remain after packaging products biodegrade which can lead to chemicals leaking into the environment and contaminating water supplies. Emma warned the audience of the dangers of so-called “safe environmentally-friendly” alternatives to plastic, citing the example of bamboo coffee cups, which have been found in several cases to leak dangerous levels of formaldehyde into your beverages. Sara Walton, Food Sector Lead and Katerina Busuttil, Senior Standards Manager at BSI, outlined the role of BSI, the manner in which standards change over time and how standards can accelerate innovation. 


In addition to our talks on Day 2 of MRE, we also occupied a Stand, where we showcased the work of the network and hosted the following exhibitors:

Blue Castle – a leading consultancy in sustainable business solution.  Blue Castle has spent years of R&D creating their unique PVC Banner Recycling Scheme.

Stormboard – Storm Board is produced in the UK from so-called “unrecyclable” plastic. It is used as a sustainable alternative to plywood, OSB and MDF. Typical applications are site hoardings, shop fitting and live stock husbandry.

Gomi Design – Gomi turn ‘non-recyclable’ plastic waste into products, such as from plastic bag waste to portable speakers. 

AgriFoodX – AgriFoodX offers a broad range of scientific and technical expertise in food innovation and packaging technology.

The ShellworksThe Shellworks creates packaging alternatives to plastic from seafood waste. The packaging is truly biodegradable, home compostable, cost competitive at scale, providing an alternative to plastic that is easy to throw away without impacting the environment.


Overall, the event proved the power of networking with individual delegates and exhibitors making worthwhile connections. We were delighted to host a stand with such a wonderful array of fellow exhibitors and would like to thank the large numbers of the audience who attended our sessions on the second day of MRE 2020. Here’s to MRE 2022!


You can view KTN’s report on MRE 2020 here.

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