The transition to a circular economy

Reducing our impact on the environment through the sustainable use of resources. 

National Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Research (NICER) Programme

Launched in May 2021, this £30 million investment by UKRI aims to support our move towards a circular economy and reduce our impact on the environment. Five new research centres form part of this initiative, tasked with delivering the knowledge and innovation we need to support the transition to a net-zero economy by 2050. To achieve this, they bring together academic and industry partners from across a broad range of sectors and disciplines. The programme also includes a circular economy research hub (CE-HUB). It will connect a broader community of stakeholders from across the UK including the government and the third sector.


We are delighted to be part of this inspiring programme and are actively involved as industry supporters in two of the five centres.

Secure and sustainable supply of technology metals

The first centre in which Beta is involved is concerned with the supply, use and re-use of ‘technology metals’. These important metals include cobalt and lithium and are essential in cleantech and digital applications such as electric vehicles and renewable energy. The centre will research the whole life cycle of the metals, starting with extraction, enabling a secure and sustainable supply. The Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Centre in Technology Metals ‘Met4Tech’, is led by the University of Exeter (Cambourne School of Mines).

Recycling and reuse of metals

With Brunel University London as the lead organisation, the focus of the second centre Beta is supporting is ‘fully circulate’ metals. The Interdisciplinary Centre for Circular Metals: CircularMetal has the ambition to make the UK the first country to fully recycle and reuse metals by 2050. To achieve this, the metals industry will have to transform from a largely linear economy to a circular economy. Reducing the energy and emissions associated with extraction is a key feature of this. The centre’s research will consider metal recycling for major industries including aerospace, automotive, and electronics, which are important areas of growth for the UK economy.

Collaboration is key

To make significant strides towards a more circular economy, the NICER Programme will need to develop strong collaborations between academic partners, businesses and policymakers. It must also reach beyond the UK, teaming up with similar programmes around the world to share best practice. This knowledge can then be applied in both a local context or much wider in a national or international environment.


Beta has been facilitating knowledge transfer and the development of networks for over 30 years and brings many international connections to the NICER initiative as an industry supporter.

Find out more about our European networks and our activities to connect with policymakers on our website.