Next up in the KTP Net-Zero series, we look at N2S who are present in Glasgow at COP26. N2S and Coventry University are harnessing the power of biotechnology to extract valuable, precious and rare earth metals from printed circuit boards in an environmentally-friendly way.

About N2S

N2S are headquartered in Bury St Edmunds, and opening sites in Reading  & Mansfield, they are the UK’s market leader in IT lifecycle services which include WEEE (Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment) compliant IT Recycling and Data Destruction services (accredited by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC)

N2S are passionate about increasing the circular economy of IT equipment in two ways; through encouraging resale/re-use and innovating environmentally friendly processes for extracting valuable metals from redundant technology.

About this KTP 

N2S partnered with Coventry University through the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) programme. This partnership has allowed N2S to access the expertise of  Dr. Sebastien Farnaud and Professor Derek Renshaw from the University’s Health and Life Science faculty as well as the printed electronics and electro-chemistry knowledge of Dr. John Graves, supporting them to develop an innovative solution to extract the valuable material within printed circuit boards through Bioleaching techniques.

Status of the project 

The project, which was completed this Autumn, has exceeded everyone’s expectations.  It has not only proved that the science can scale up to recover many more metals than originally planned, but N2S has also transformed into a biotechnology company, with new laboratories and staff trained to develop the technology further. For the University it has also been hugely successful:- Academic papers, new funding and PhDs to mention just a few of their benefits. The KTP Associate, who led the project, has started a new career heading up the new Bioleaching facility at N2S, after gaining technical and project management training as well as graduating from KTN’s Innovation Strategy course. 

Here’s what Sebastien Farnaud, Professor in Enterprise and Innovation in Healthcare and Technologies at Coventry University had to say about the project: 

“At Coventry University, we have developed an innovative, efficient and green solution targeting closed-loop systems, based on bioleaching technology to recover precious metals from e-waste. Thanks to an Innovate UK-funded Knowledge Transfer Partnership project, this technology has been embedded at N2S Ltd premises, and has transformed their commercial capacities of IT waste management and revolutionised UK industry within the ‘circular economy’, whilst tackling environmental issues, and tightening security surrounding e-waste disposal.

“This project, which has been acclaimed by DEFRA at the launch of their Sustainability Alliance for IT, is demonstrating the impact of knowledge transfer between public domain and industry, economically, environmentally but also towards policy changes

“This is therefore a unique collaboration between a Life Science laboratory and a recycling company, which developed successfully a unique novel approach to recover metals from e-waste. This unique partnership opens the door to new applications worldwide that will change the industry and demonstrate a sustainable closed-loop system with waste as a source of materials for multiple supply chains.”

Jan Stringer, Knowledge Transfer Adviser at KTN added:

“This project was extremely challenging- not just scientifically but the wider investment and change management aspects required to deliver the huge innovation in this Suffolk based SME.

It was my great privilege to support the N2S/Coventry team, right from the initial planning to the final delivery- this is what KTP is all about- working in true partnership for mutual benefit of  all the partners- it is just a small example of how KTP and KTN can  Connect for Positive Change towards  a Net Zero world”  

About Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships are a dynamic three-way collaboration between a business or not for profit organisation, one of the UK’s world-class knowledge bases, and a suitably qualified graduate. 

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships are funded by a grant to the university from Innovate UK and other government co-funders, and a cash contribution from the business involved. The programme is delivered by Knowledge Transfer Network, a network partner of Innovate UK.

Interested in learning more? Find out here.

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