Scott Bader and the Institute for Sustainability – a long-standing compromise with sustainable innovation
Scott Bader and the University of Bath’s Institute for Sustainability, which hosts iCAST, started working together in 2017. So far, this partnership has led to a funded PhD and two joint industry projects with iCAST, and is poised to continue delivering sustainable innovation in the coming years.
Scott Bader is a global manufacturer of materials that started its activities in 1921. Today, their composite, structural adhesive and functional polymer products are widely used around the world. The company prides itself in being one of the UK’s first employee-owned businesses, and in their compromise in striking a balance between social purpose and business needs.
The company’s 2036 vision includes ambitious strategic goals that show a commitment to social responsibility. These include pioneering the circular economy in collaboration with partners, and leading by example by going the extra mile delivering products and processes that safeguard people and the environment.
The partnership between Scott Bader and the Institute for Sustainability (IfS) –which hosts iCAST– began in 2017 with an introduction from one of the Institute’s CDT students, Dr Jasmine Lightfoot. Jasmine was then a first-year PhD student who had worked with Steven Brown, Scott Bader’s New Technology Development Manager, during a placement she undertook for her undergraduate degree in Chemistry in Sheffield.
Aware that industry-relevant research and collaboration was one of the pillars of the Institute’s work, Jasmine identified a suitable match between the organisations, and invited Steve to join the Institute’s yearly conference.
“I spent my industrial placement at Scott Bader with Steven Brown as my supervisor –he was actually the person to first spark my interest in green chemistry and sustainability. I invited Steve to attend the Summer Showcase [the IfS conference] because I thought it would be interesting to him, which apparently it was because after the event he reached out to start a collaboration with the Institute.”
Ensuing the conference, Steve Brown and Professor Matthew Davidson, IfS Co-Director, began exploring potential avenues for collaboration that eventually led to an industry-sponsored PhD. The project focused on developing bio-based alternatives to plastics used in cosmetic and personal care products, particularly the plastics which give these products their viscosity properties.
Dr Philip Yang, currently one of iCAST’s Technology Translators, was the student behind this work:
“In essence, we were trying to make thickeners for the oils that many personal care products are based on. This was relevant to sustainability in general, but also because changes in legislation demanded changes in this area. For example, plastic microbeads got banned in 2019 so it was thought that other plastics in these products would soon be banned too.
We also investigated various new bio-based plastics that had never been reported before and related to other applications.”
While this research project was still underway, iCAST was officially launched as the research and innovation arm of the IfS, bringing together resources and expertise from academia, research catapults and local authorities to support easy investment in R&D –the perfect next chapter for the working relationship between the IfS and Scott Bader.
Since then, Scott Bader and iCAST have worked on three distinct Joint Industry Projects. Two of them focus on developing vitrimer resins for composite materials.
Composites are renowned for strength, stiffness, lightness and durability. These materials are key enablers of a low carbon society – however, current composite formulations do not facilitate their easy repair or reuse at end-of-life. Composite manufacturers need solutions to make these materials more repairable and easier to disassemble and repurpose.
Vitrimers are recognised for their self-healing properties, so using these resins in composite formulations could give them the potential to repair themselves. As well as this, vitrimers can be recovered and reused, offering a much more sustainable option than traditional resins.
Through these collaborative industry projects, Scott Bader and iCAST are exploring the synthesis of vitrimer resins from bio-based raw materials that can be reused while presenting the essential properties of composites.
The third project is investigating green chemistry routes to improve the sustainability of polyurethane (PU) production, by eliminating harmful chemicals involved in the making of this common material.
Professor Matthew Davidson, Director of the Institute for Sustainability and iCAST, said:
“Our collaboration with Scott Bader has already been very productive and the partnership is now poised to achieve even more to establish new technologies for sustainable and responsible industry practice. Aligning with companies such as Scott Bader is a vital step towards creating a greener and more sustainable world.”
Steven Brown, Scott Bader’s New Technology Development Manager, said:
“Partnering with iCAST allows Scott Bader to work with some of the brightest academic minds as we search for more sustainable raw materials that will allow us to produce low carbon, bio-based composites, structural adhesives and functional polymers for our customers worldwide. We look forward to continuing these exciting projects with the fantastic team at iCAST.”