University of Cambridge > > Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology Departmental Seminars > Bigger Picture Talks with Professor Roland Clift: The role of chemical engineering in sustainable development

Bigger Picture Talks with Professor Roland Clift: The role of chemical engineering in sustainable development

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Our departmental seminar series, Bigger Picture Talks, runs throughout the academic year, inviting thought-leaders from across the world driving significant advances in our impact areas of energy, health and sustainability to share and discuss their work with us. This is a fantastic opportunity for us to hear from other leading researchers, develop new connections and collaborations, and discuss some of the wider questions in our field. We hope they will inspire new ideas for us all to take into our own research.

In this talk, Professor Roland Clift shares his work about the role of Chemical Engineering in sustainable development. Please register to join us.

Abstract: Sustainable development is conceived, for example in the UN Sustainable Development Goals, as a process of social development subject to techno-economic and ecological constraints, rather than merely economic growth. This interpretation requires a re-evaluation of the role of engineering, and particularly chemical engineering. Chemical engineering can provide new processes and products, but it is also a main component of the emerging field of Industrial Ecology (IE) by applying chemical engineering thinking to physical stocks and flows in the economy – i.e. “chemical engineering outside the pipe”. Examples to show the value of this approach are:

- Consumer plastics, where IE analysis shows why a closed-loop economy for plastics is impossible without energy-from-waste processes;

- Durable and manufactured goods, where IE shows that product service life is more important than recycling and so requires re-evaluation of the popular idea of a “circular economy”;

- Management of scarce materials, where IE helps to guide regulatory approaches.

Bio: Professor Clift was a lecturer at Cambridge from 1976 to 1981. He then moved to the University of Surrey as Head of the Department of Chemical Engineering. In 1992, he founded the Centre for Environmental Strategy (CES) at Surrey, now the Centre for Environment and Sustainability, as a transdisciplinary research centre embracing engineering and the natural and social sciences. He is now an Emeritus Professor at Surrey and Adjunct Professor in Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of British Columbia, Canada. Since 1992, he has focussed on the use of chemical engineering principles to underpin the transition to a more sustainable economy, primarily as a component of the emerging discipline of industrial ecology. He has served as both President and Executive Director of the International Society for Industrial Ecology. In 2017, he was awarded the George E. Davis medal of the Institution of Chemical Engineers for his work on the application of chemical engineering in industrial ecology and sustainability.

His experience in advising government bodies includes: Review Editor and contributing Chapter Author for the 5th Assessment Report of the (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); ten years as a member of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution; Member of the Science Advisory Council of the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA); and Specialist Advisor to the Science and Technology Committee of the House of Lords. He has acted as environmental consultant to a number of major companies.

This talk is part of the Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology Departmental Seminars series.

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