A TECHNICAL revolution is coming and the Centre for Process Innovation is firmly at the vanguard of the advances that will shape our future.
This year has been a hugely successful one for the centre – moving to a new phase in its growth and achieving national success, bringing business, money and recognition to the Tees Valley.
CPI has continued to recruit expert staff for its work in the new energy, new materials and new process sectors – along with encouraging innovation in the process industry by offering help and support to other companies.
Two national centres are now well-established at CPI – the National Industrial Biotechnology Facility and nanotechnology experts NanoCentral.
The centre was also able to announce a world first – the development of a hydrogen-powered fuel cell at South Gare lighthouse at the mouth of the River Tees.
The ground-breaking project, which proved fuel cells can work in some of the planet’s most hostile and inhospitable places, saw CPI working in a truly global collaboration that involved PD Ports, which runs Teesport, as well as marine engineering company Pelangi, German firm Schunk and American multinational Air Products.
This success was matched by the opening of the £12m National Industrial Biotechnology Facility at Wilton in July – another massive accomplishment that also captured the imagination of the scientific community around the globe.
NIBF transforms the way vital chemicals – used in millions of everyday products such as cosmetics, fuels and pharmaceuticals – are made.
The new facility allows those involved in the chemical industry open access to try out ideas before committing themselves to expensive capital investment.
Successful processes can be rolled out on a larger scale and those that don’t pan out can be scrapped without costing millions of pounds – or jobs.
CPI says it is no exaggeration to claim the work carried out at NIBF could also lead to the creation of thousands of new jobs in the sector and that, long term, it could add many hundreds of millions of pounds to the region’s coffers.
Of course, the Tees Valley has long been an internationally-important centre for the chemical industry and 34,000 people in the area are still directly employed, with many more service jobs also dependant on its success.
CPI is one of the Centres of Excellence set up under One NorthEast’s Strategy for Success with a remit to drive forward applied research and development in the process sector. CPI is challenged with filling the sizeable shoes of ICI, upholding the proud industrial heritage and leading the North-East’s vital process industry into a vibrant new era that will see the region firmly established as a major player on the international stage.
The opening of NIBF and development of the South Gare fuel cell are concrete signs that CPI is delivering tangible results that will help to shape the future.
CPI’s chief executive Nigel Perry, said: “It’s been an amazing year in many ways. We are called the Centre for Process Innovation and these two projects have helped us live up to that name.
“Along with our work in the plastic electronics field, these projects will help put the North-East at the head of the green revolution.
“NIBF offers new sustainable ways of making the chemicals that society demands in a modern, clean and harmless way.
“The use of the fuel cell at South Gare is a big step forward. Fuel cells have the potential to be an important component of our future energy supply along with the likes of tidal/wave, wind and solar powers, nuclear and some fossil fuel, though we know these have a finite lifespan.
“Due to the fact that fossil fuels are limited and will run out at some point, and because of their possible contribution to climate change, we must work hard to find other viable energy solutions – from renewable sources as much as possible. We have proved at South Gare that fuel cells can operate in critical applications.”