UK Catalysis Hub Call for proposals 2020

The UK Catalysis Hub opened its Call for Projects in March 2020 and received 61 Proposals with 97 years PDRA time requested supported by over £850,000 funding from industry. The projects were of very high-quality science.  All the funded proposals were aligned with the Hub’s ethos, i.e. multi institution and multidisciplinary collaborative projects. This was an excellent outcome of the call and clearly shows the need for catalytic research and the interest of industry in the Hub, even in these uncertain times. The proposals were reviewed as per the procedure developed by the Hub since its outset in 2013 and included members from across the academic and industrial communities chaired by a member of the Hub’s steering group.  

The management group has been as flexible with the funding to support as wide a range of projects as possible and some projects have been offered short periods of funding or support from the Core PDRAs based in Harwell,  in modelling, neutrons and synchrotron science, to enable projects to be tested or to bring the science to a point where further funding can be applied for. Overall, 29 projects have been funded.

The proposals received were of very high quality and each theme has a diverse portfolio of projects (see summaries below). It is worth noting the Hub is supporting a number of ECRs in this round including the core PDRAs on the Science 1 theme who have been involved in writing the proposals. A number of previous Hub postdocs have been successful in this round of funding as well as other ECRs in catalysis.  

Science 1 – Optimising predicting and designing new catalysts


Reengineering the active site of non-heame iron enzymes using an expanded genetic code

(Investigators – Green (Manchester), Mulholland (Bristol), Catlow, Quesne (Cardiff), Heyes (Manchester))

Modulation Excitation Neutron Scattering

(Investigators – Hardacre (Manchester), Catlow, Matam (Cardiff), Bowron (ISIS), Diaz-Moreno (DLS))

Integration, prediction and validation in enantioselective catalysis–proof-of-concept for an integrated workflow

(Investigators – Fey (Bristol), Lynam (York), Quesne (Cardiff), AZ, Catsci)

Elucidation of Reaction and Deactivation Mechanisms of Fresh and Stabilized Zeolites for End Of Life Plastic (Elp)Pyrolysis

(Investigators – Beale (UCL), Dann, Kondrat (Loughborough), Moreau)

Stable and Economic Iridium Catalysts for Renewable Energy Technologies

(Investigators – Regmi, Kine (MMU), Decarolis (Cardiff), Beale, Negahdar, (UCL), Ronning (NTNU), AVS)

Direct Hydrogenation of Captured Carbon Dioxide using a Heterogeneous Catalyst

(Investigators – Kondrat, Buckley Christie (Loughborough), Catlow, Quesne, Decarolis (Cardiff), Hall (CCSL), Gianolio Aramini (DLS), Wells (Southampton))

Sorbate Dynamics in Methanol to Hydrocarbon Catalysts

(Investigators – Matam, Catlow (Cardiff), O’Malley (Bath), Van Veen (Warwick))

Protein Repair Catalysis

(Investigators – Davis (Oxford), Hutchings, Catlow (Cardiff), RFI))

Cooperative Bio-Hetero Catalysts for Selective Hydrogenation

(Investigators – Vincent (Oxford), Freakley (Bath))

Induction Heating After Treatment Solutions for Hybrid Vehicle Emissions Control

(Investigators – Goguet, Mccullough (QUB), Wells (Southampton), Gibson (Glasgow))

Changing the Philosophy of Catalyst Design: A Process Systems Orientated Approach

(Investigators – Gavriilidis, Sorensen (UCL), Blacker (Leeds), Catlow, Hutchings (Cardiff), JM)

Science 2 – Catalysis at the Water and Energy Nexus


Removal of Low Concentration Pollutants from Potable Water

(Investigators – Hardacre (Manchester), Davies, Hutchings, Catlow, Quesne, Delarmelina (Cardiff))

Stable and economic Iridium catalysts for renewable energy technologies

(Investigators – Regmi, Kine (MMU), Decarolis (Cardiff), Beale, Negahdar (UCL), Ronning (NTNU), Garbayo (AVS))

Solar-driven, Inexpensive, Photoelectrochemical Reactor for Treating High Ionic Strength Waste water

(Investigators – Mills, (QUB), Hardacre (Manchester), Brett (UCL))

Photocatalysis in the water flow: mediator – free NAD(P)H regeneration for biotransformations

(Investigators – Wang (Lancaster), Howe, Kechagiopoulos (Aberdeen), Shi Ma (Tianjin), Lvu (Zhongtian Scie and Tech))

Treatment of microplastics in wastewater

(Investigators – Hardacre (Manchester), Mattia, Exposito (Bath))

Valorisation of Microplastics in Wastewater

(Investigators – Green (Manchester), Hardacre (Manchester), Catlow (Cardiff), Robertson (QUB))

Converting biomass derived VFAs into biofuels

(Investigators – Manyar, Gouget (QUB), Carlow (Cardiff), Hardacre (Manchester), Shell))

Direct Catalytic Reduction of Carbon Dioxide with Water

(Investigators – McGregor (Sheffield), Nyugen (Leeds), 350 Solar Tech)

Artificial heterobimetallic enzymes: Synthesis and application of [NiFe]-hydrogenase analogues

(Investigators – Pordea, Morra (Nottingham), Marr (QUB), Vincent (Oxford))

Science 3 – Catalysis for Circular Economy and Sustainable Manufacturing


Reframing plastic waste as a resource

(Investigators – Garforth, Fan, Hardacre, Partlett, Tedstone, Wilkinson, Yerokhin, Zhang (Manchester), Davidson (Bath), Randvir (MMU))

Sustaining pharma-relevant metal -catalysed cross-couplings: interrogation of metal catalysts using automated optimisation routines, rich data analytics and mechanistic studies

(Investigators – Fairlamb, Wilson (York), Bourne Willans (Leeds), Beaumont (Durham), GSK)

Catalytic upgrading of carbon dioxide, hydrogen and small alcohols to liquids fuels

(Investigators – Wass Sankar (Cardiff), Fan, Hardacre (Manchester), BP, JM)

From Rings to Polymers and Back Again: Catalytic Recycling of Waste Oxygenated Plastic

(Investigators – Buchard Parsons, Lyall, Gobius Du Sart (Bath), Williams (Oxford), Mulholland (Bristol), Terill (DLS), Drochaid, Oxford Engineering)

CO2 to MeOH: a supported molten-salt catalytic membrane reactor (CO2MeOH)

(Investigators – Papaioannou, Mutch (Newcastle), Gibson (Glasgow), McCue (Aberdeen))

Understanding Wet Impregnation Synthesis for Sustainable Hydrogenation Catalysts

(Investigators – Haigh (Manchester), Sankar (Cardiff), BP, JM)

Catalytic cascade reactions for biomass valorisation

(Investigators – Parlett (Manchester/Diamond), Hondrow (Leeds), Evans (Aston), LuxferMEL)

-1-Rh–complexes of the super-π-acceptor fluoro-phosphite ligands: ligand design and operando studies of an industrially important class of hydroformylation catalyst

(Investigators – Pringle, Fey (Bristol), Hintermair (Bath), LiKat, Bartlett (DLS), Evonik)

Sustainable Syngas from Engineered Bacteria for Next-Generation Catalytic Hydroformylation

(Investigators – Jarvis, Wallace (Edinburgh), LiKat)

In addition one proposal was deemed to cross all the themes of the Hub and will be supported by all themes. 

Cloud-enabled virtual collaboration for catalyst modelling for the circular economy

(Investigators – Mulholland, Bennie (Bristol), Green (Manchester), Jarvis (Edinburgh), Bouchard, Davidson (Bath), McGeehan (Portsmouth))

The call for proposals was a huge success and we look forward to this exciting and diverse portfolio of Projects getting started this year. The Hub is very happy to be able to support and enable cutting edge, collaborative research even is these difficult times. 

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