The Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Sustainable Chemical Technologies, held within the University of Bath Institute for Sustainability (IfS), hosted its annual conference on 12-13 June 2023 and saw more than 150 people celebrating sustainable chemical technologies.

This year’s event zoomed in on the CDT alumni and student community’s numerous accomplishments in both industry and academia. While current students focused on sharing their research, returning alumni speakers –mostly working in industry¬– covered their professional journeys since graduating from the CDT and how this institution has been instrumental in their successes. Having introduced a pioneering, interdisciplinary, cohort-based doctoral programme that graduated 10 cohorts of CDT students since 2009, the CDT has seen over 65% of its students employed by industry - almost three times the national rate for engineering and physical sciences PhD graduates [Review of EPSRC-funded Doctoral Education, EPSRC, 2021].

To showcase the success of its graduates in industry, the event included a panel session in which alumni and academics discussed their entrepreneurial journeys – either setting up their own startups or playing a strategic role in one.

The event also counted on highly regarded plenary speakers in academia and policy, such as Professors Macfarlane (Monash University, Australia), Welton (Imperial College London) and Torrente Murciano (University of Cambridge), as well as the Rt Hon Chris Skidmore MP.

Laura Torrente Murciano, Professor of Reaction Engineering and Catalysis, and Doug Macfarlane, Sir John Monash Distinguished Professor, spoke about the potential for a “green ammonia economy”. Professor Torrente Murciano presented her research on novel reactor design for green ammonia production, which could lead to ammonia becoming an important source of renewable energy as well as a green route to future food security for a growing global economy. Professor Macfarlane talked about the different challenges presented by current green ammonia production methods and discussed alternatives, namely his own work on lithium-mediated ammonia electrochemical synthesis that uses air, water and renewable energy and could lead to the production of cleaner fuels and fertilisers.

Professor Tom Welton OBE CChem FRSC, Professor of Sustainable Chemistry at Imperial College London and former Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) President, delivered a session on the role of policy in driving the adoption and development of sustainable technologies. Professor Welton provided historical examples where international action has been successful in solving environmental problems, and described the work of the RSC on plastics impact. Such work includes influencing international policy through the Burlington Consensus and leading calls for the formation of a United Nations independent intergovernmental science–policy panel for chemicals, waste and the prevention of pollution.

The Rt Hon Chris Skidmore OBE MP talked about net zero policy and the role of the circular economy, highlighting the opportunities that net zero presents for economic growth and the leadership role of the UK on achieving zero emissions by 2050. Skidmore, who was recently appointed Professor of Practice at the University, said: “Waste is caused by a lack of imagination – we need a holistic approach to the circular economy and to depoliticise our net zero targets so that everyone can commit to actions toward a common goal.

“Instead of waiting for central Government to take legislative action, which can be time-consuming, we should be empowering local Government to be able to pursue targets regionally.

“As part of my new professorship at Bath, I’m looking forward to working alongside leading academic practitioners on net zero policymaking and the energy transition.”