Umicore, a partner of the SINReM programme

Umicore is a leading international company specialised in materials technology. The company is based in Belgium and produces materials for the automotive, construction and electronics industries, with a particular focus on recycling metals of end-of-life products. The company is stimulating the circular economy, mainly by offering an alternative to the extraction of primary raw materials and resources.

“We rely not only on our own experts and knowledge, but we actively seek interaction with the academic community. By giving guest lectures at universities, Umicore aims to contribute to training the next generation of experts, giving them an opportunity to use the tools and knowledge available within the company. It’s a win-win for students, universities and companies alike. Students with a background in mining, geology and chemistry, for example, should have the opportunity to become experts with a holistic view on the entire value chain and the potential for sustainable management of natural resources”, Tom Hennebel, Project Leader at Umicore and guest lecturer at Ghent University, explains.

Recycling, batteries and cleaner air

Primary resources are becoming scarce. Umicore focuses on urban mining and recycling metals by collecting end-of-life products like cell phones, notebooks and tablets, and extracting the metals and useful materials from these products. In the search for sustainable, economical and socially responsible technologies, students can be of great help. They can deliver new insights and interact with experts on different challenges. An example? One of the biggest challenges is how optimise the collection of these end-of-life products, as they are quite diffused compared to primary resources, which are mostly centralised in selected spots.

In the current economic climate, there is an intense search for alternatives to fossil resources and the demand for batteries is higher than ever. Umicore develops technologies and conducts research on the use of recycled materials and the reduction of primary resources in the production of batteries, electric cars, trucks and electronic devices, among others. On the other hand, Umicore focuses strongly on the development of new batteries. “By supporting programmes like Smart Design, the recycling process of batteries can already be taken into consideration during the production process. Umicore puts a lot of effort in searching for experts and training them to assist in the development of these technologies”, Tom Hennebel continues.

A third field of expertise at Umicore is the development of products enabling cleaner air, such as catalysts. The company focuses equally on the production of catalysts for the automotive sector and on the recycling processes for these catalysts.

Added value for SINReM

The most unique aspect of the SINReM International Master is the close interaction with the non-academic sector, including companies like Umicore. Students enjoy company visits, field trips and guest lectures by non-academic experts. They also have the opportunity to complete an internship or write a dissertation in collaboration with the partner companies. The programme stimulates the students’ creativity and entrepreneurial spirit by giving them access to a wide range of tools and assets, and by offering them the chance to freely discuss ideas with academic and non-academic parties. Together, SINReM students, professors and the non-academic partners contribute to the evolution towards a sustainable, economically and environmentally friendly world.