By Professor James Clark, Circa Scientific Advisor, Director of the Circa Renewable Chemistry Institute and Professor of Chemistry, University of York

Over the last ten years at the University of York’s Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence, we have worked closely in partnership with Circa Group. This partnership has led to some exciting chemistry and some exciting new chemicals, the most well-known being Circa’s green solvent Cyrene™.

The partnership also led to the creation in 2022 of the Circa Renewable Chemistry Institute (CRCI) based at the University of York and led by myself and Rob McElroy. The Institute will play a vital role in developing the biomaterials industry through providing cutting-edge research into new breakthrough products and processes. It will be an international hub for renewable chemistry, as well as helping Circa and its customers make industrial processes safer and more sustainable.

I’ve worked with industry throughout my whole career and the partnership with Circa is special because it has been so long-standing. It is a genuine partnership built on trust, mutual respect and the personal chemistry between myself and Circa CEO Tony Duncan.

This type of collaboration between industry and academia is hugely beneficial for the students at the University of York. Students get to work on real world cases and we can open their eyes to the renewable chemistry space so they’re not automatically pushed into working in petrochemicals.

There is tremendous added value from the students’ perspective and from our educational perspective. And industry needs these bright young minds as bio-based chemicals become more mainstream.

The benefits of our partnership go well beyond the academic realm. Circa gains access to cutting-edge research with extremely well-equipped laboratories and the academic expertise and leadership that come with them. As well as developing commercial applications for Cyrene™ and platform chemical LGO, we are also looking for the next big breakthroughs and renewable chemistry discoveries.

I am a great believer in entrepreneurship and having been involved with Circa for more than ten years, I am thrilled that this latest step to establish the Circa Renewable Chemistry Institute (CRCI) at the University of York  will continue to build and bring value to both sides of the partnership.

The Circa Renewable Chemistry Institute is the fruit of an impactful, symbiotic relationship between Circa and the university. It will serve as a contact point across both international and local networks, from media and funders to future customers, academia and politicians.

Renewable chemicals will play a significant part in the future of the chemical industry. This is no longer up for debate and given the lengthy investment cycles of large corporates, we need to accelerate their development now.