Seren awarded £1.7m grant for magnet recycling plant

L to R – Professor Peter Nockemann of Queen’s University, Tim Harrison, Esther McKee and Andrew Holmes of SerenTech
L to R – Professor Peter Nockemann of Queen’s University, Tim Harrison, Esther McKee and Andrew Holmes of SerenTech

QUEEN'S University spin-out Seren Technologies (SerenTech) has won a £1.72 million grant from the UK Government's Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) to build a cutting-edge recycling facility in Northern Ireland and create a number of jobs.

Founded in 2015, SerenTech has developed new techniques to recycle magnets using a revolutionary process for the separation and recovery of rare earth elements from mining ore concentrates and waste magnets.

It now has 11 full time employees in Belfast, with another 25 positions to be created in 2023.

QUB Professor Peter Nockemann said: “Given the ubiquity of magnets in almost every type of electronic equipment, from mobile phones to electric cars to MRI machines, and the rising cost of mining rare earth elements which make magnets, the development of a scaled-up magnet recycling process is seen as a major area of economic growth.

“Our team at Queen's are proud of the world leading research which has led us to this point. SerenTech has developed a toolkit of separation techniques and solvent systems which present a potential opportunity to provide a world leading recycling process in the industrial elemental extraction from spent magnets and waste, to satisfy growing demand and lagging new global supply chains, right here in Belfast.”

He added: “The technology developed by SerenTech provides considerable benefits over alternative magnet recycling technology presently being marketed and operated. We now look forward to the next stage of the company’s journey where we take what we have learned at a research scale and expand it to demonstration scale.”

Andrew Holmes, director of SerenTech, said: “This is a tremendous endorsement from the UK Government and the APC on the potential for scaling our technology offering from SerenTech. This grant validates the significance of magnet recycling in a tight supply market.

“The team has been busy setting a platform to accelerate from the pilot scale studies at Queens University Belfast, and now relocation to a new commercial facility in Belfast, where a demonstration scale 30 tonne per annum magnet recycling circuit can be housed.

“The scale of the proposed demonstration plant will prepare the ground for further product development with industry partners.

“We expect that the importance of recycling will increase dramatically over the next few years as the energy transition away from carbon gathers more momentum, and the desire from governments to develop alternative secure supply chains amplifies.”