Rationale

The sustainable and secure supply of raw materials to the EU is a vital, strategic, long-term issue for Europe. This Grand Societal Challenge is directly addressed by SIM² KU Leuven whose mission is to develop, organise and implement problem-driven, science-deep research and future-oriented education, contributing to the environmentally friendly production and recycling of metals, minerals and engineered materials within a circular-economy context.
SIM²-Scope
SIM² KU Leuven: scope of resources that are addressed

Scope of materials

SIM² KU Leuven targets both primary ores, extractive waste, industrial process residues and urban solid waste. Key focus areas are (1) metal extraction from increasingly complex, polymetallic, low-grade ores; (2) metal recovery from stocks of extractive waste (incl. tailings) and landfilled industrial process residues (e.g. sludges, dusts, slags…); (3) metal recovery from flows of industrial process residues from primary and secondary metal production; (4) direct (preconsumer) recycling of metal scrap and swarf generated during the production of metal-based (intermediate) products; (5) (postconsumer) recycling and/or urban mining of, respectively, flows and stocks of complex, multi-material, metal-containing products (e.g. End-of-Life Hybrid Electric Vehicles) as well as construction and demolition waste); and finally (6) landfill mining of historic urban solid waste. SIM² KU Leuven targets a near-zero-waste vision, which implies that any kind of residual mineral matrices are upcycled into added-value materials such as inorganic polymer binders and derived engineered products. Hazardous components are concentrated into specific phases that can be safely stored.

SIM² KU Leuven timeline

SIM² KU Leuven has existed as an interdisciplinary research line within KU Leuven MRC since 2011. The establishment of SIM² KU Leuven was based on previous successes, which date back as far as 2003 when the HiTemp Centre was initiated at the Department of Materials Engineering. This Centre, which still exists today, was set up as an Academic Competence and Service Centre, structurally funded by several world-leading, Flemish-based metallurgical companies, including Umicore and Aperam. Subsequently, the Centre led to interdisciplinary collaborations with other research groups at KU Leuven, both within the Department of Materials and beyond, in the field of geology, building materials, chemical metallurgy, recycling, environmental and techno-economic assessment, policy research, process psychology etc. Here below the reader can view the timeline of the various collaborations, platforms programmes and projects developed through SIM² KU Leuven are summarised, showing that the SIM² KU Leuven cluster grew “organically”.

2003

Initiation Centre for Refractory Materials, catalyst for > 15 IWT O&O Projects (Umicore, “ALZ”, “Sidmar”) (HiTemp Group, MTM) (now Centre for HiTemp Processes and Sustainable Materials Management, funded by Umicore, Aperam, Group Machiels and Recmix)

2003

2005

2005

2006

IOF Mandate Holder Karel Van Acker (MRC)

2006

2008

IOF Mandate Holder Peter Tom Jones Industrial Ecology (MTM, CIT, BOKU, GEO, HUB)

2008

2008

Startup Flemish Enhanced Landfill Mining Consortium (KU Leuven (coord.), Group Machiels, OVAM, VITO etc.

2008

2009

IOF Knowledge Platform SMaRT-Pro²  (CIT (coord.), GEO, BOKU, HUB, KHBO, MTM/Centre, COK, LAW)

2009

2009

Start-up InsPyro spin-off company

2009

2010

Start-up Centre for Resource Recovery and Recycling (KU Leuven + WPI and CSM from US)

2010

2011

IOF Leverage Project to prepare launching of SIM² KU Leuven

2011

2011

Entry of Prof. Koen Binnemans (Chemistry Dept.) in the cluster

2011

2011

SIM² KU Leuven formally established

2011

2012

IOF Knowledge Platform on Rare Earth Recycling and Start-up SUMMA (policy research centre)

2012

2013

European Breakthrough: FP7 EURARE and EREAN

2013

2013

KU Leuven in centre Belgian Urban/Landfill Mining Consortium for EIT KIC Raw MatTERS proposal

2013

2013

Kick-off EURELCO Consortium led by KU Leuven

2013

2014

SIM MaRes Programme and EIT RawMaterials formally approved

2014

2016

Koen Binnemans obtains ERC Advanced Grant SOLCRIMET

2016

2016

Spin-out RESOURCEFULL

2016

2016

EIT Label Master in Sustainable Materials (Leuven, INP Grenoble, U Milano-Bicocca, U Trento, MU Leoben)

2016

2017

C3 SOLMET approved leading to SOLVOMET Industrial Service Centre (Department of Chemistry)

2017

2017

Policy research centre for Circular Economy

2017

2018

SIM² KU Leuven requests to become a formal KU Leuven Institute

2018