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The government has granted Innovate UK £15 million for research into recycling rare earth metals, essential materials used in technology such as electric vehicles and wind turbines. The goal is to secure resilient global supply chains by strengthening the supply of critical minerals.

Rare earth elements are a group of 17 chemical elements, including fifteen lanthanides, yttrium and scandium. They are essential for the production of many products, from smart phones to electric vehicles and wind turbines. Supply chains for these materials are complex and markets are volatile, with most critical minerals sourced from just a handful of countries. This leaves UK jobs and industries vulnerable to market shocks and geopolitical events.

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The £15 million funding will launch the CLIMATES programme, delivered by Innovate UK, to develop work on rare earths by researchers and businesses across the country. This will support innovations in the recycling of rare earth elements, as well as research and development, engagement with international partners and activities to identify and support future skills needs.

Rising Demand for Critical Minerals

Production of critical minerals of all kinds is expected to rise sharply, some as much as 500% by 2040. Innovate UK is working with the government to ensure the UK secures a strong foothold in this growing market by supporting key investment in related industries. The UK’s refreshed critical minerals strategy is expected to be published later in 2023.

Environmental Impact of Recycling Rare Earths

Recycling rare earths has a significant environmental impact, as it reduces the need for new mining operations which can cause damage to ecosystems and habitats. It also helps to reduce the amount of waste generated by discarded electronic devices such as smartphones and laptops. Recycling rare earth metals also has economic benefits, as it helps reduce costs associated with mining operations, while also providing a reliable source of materials for industry.

The recycling of rare earths also has social benefits, as it can create jobs in areas where mining operations are not feasible or viable. This can help boost local economies in regions that have traditionally relied on mining for their livelihood.

Support from the Government

Mike Biddle, Executive Director for Net Zero at Innovate UK said:

“Now is the time to build UK capability and a sustainable supply of rare earth elements, working with international partners. The rising costs of energy has demonstrated the importance of resilient global supply chains. Our CLIMATES programme will work with businesses, investors, and industry bodies to deliver a series of activities, from funding competitions to networking events and workshops, all designed to drive growth in the sector and build resilient supply chains to help us strengthen our economy and meet our environmental targets.”

Nusrat Ghani, Minister of State at the Department for Business and Trade, said:

“Rare earth elements underpin so much of what makes everyday life and work possible, from the cars we drive to the phones we use. It is essential that, in a rapidly changing world, we do all we can to ensure resilient supplies of these and other critical minerals. The impact of Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine on energy prices has been a timely reminder of how important supply chains are for all parts of our economy. That’s why we are laser-focused on securing robust supply chains, for the growing, green industries that will deliver jobs and prosperity across the UK in the decades to come.”


Innovate UK’s £15 million investment into recycling rare earth metals will have far reaching impacts on both the environment and economy. Not only will it reduce reliance on unsustainable mining operations but it will also create new job opportunities in areas where mining is not feasible or viable. This could be an important step towards securing resilient global supply chains while also helping to meet environmental targets.