A Stoke-on-Trent company has benefitted from fully-funded specialist research into potential low carbon improvements within their business, thanks to Keele University and Stopford Energy and Environment.
EMS Industries, which manufactures ram pumps for waste water, food waste and biogas industries, approached the University’s Smart Energy Network Demonstrator (SEND)* project for support and consultancy into whether their main pump components could be replaced with more efficient and sustainable versions.
The SEND project aims to transform the Keele University campus into Europe’s largest ‘at scale’ living laboratory, where new low carbon technologies and interventions can be researched, developed and tested in a real-world environment. In order to achieve this, the University is working with businesses, graduates and academics to research and develop a wide range of smart energy innovations.
Joe Meakin, Associate Director of Operations at EMS, had heard about the SEND programme whilst he was taking part in the University’s Mercia Centre for Innovation Leadership programme, and had been looking for ways to develop their products to be more sustainable, with every component able to be recycled.
EMS was matched with an environmental consultant from Stopford, the University’s delivery partner for SEND’s supply chain development programme. The consultant conducted an appraisal of one of the EMS ram pump components to establish if aluminium could be used to replace the existing SG (spheroidal graphite) iron component and thus provide similar performance for less component weight and lower CO2 emissions due to reduced transport emissions.
Whilst the two metals had suitable and comparable mechanical properties, the Stopford report concluded that the high energy requirement to produce primary aluminium meant that it could not be recommended from an environmental perspective, unless already-recycled aluminium was sourced and that the resultant components could be recycled several more times after that.
Although the result was not what EMS was hoping for, it has not deterred Joe and his team from achieving their aim of making their products more sustainable. “The research that we conducted in association with Stopford has given us a clearer understanding of the environmental impact that certain metals have on the environment, and we intend to utilise this new knowledge to explore other ways of reducing the environmental impact of our products.”
“Throughout our partnership with both Stopford and Keele University, we have been extremely happy with the service that we’ve received. We found the professionalism of everyone we’ve worked with to be exceptional, and I’d certainly be happy to recommend the University’s business support programmes to other local SMEs who are looking to develop and grow.”
*The SEND project (ref: 32R16P00706) is part-funded from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds England Growth Programme 2014-2020, and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).