New centre for a sustainable, green chemistry future

A new doctoral training centre, run collaboratively by Oxford’s Department of Chemistry and the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence (GCCE) at the University of York, will help train a new generation of ‘green chemists’ to meet critical industry challenges.

With the global population projected to reach 10 billion by 2050, humanity faces critical challenges to meet rising needs for clean energy, food, medicines, and materials. Chemicals will play a central role in each case, however most chemical production processes are highly energy intensive, require fossil fuels and rare metals, and produce colossal amounts of waste.

If we are to transition to a sustainable, circular chemistry economy, we will need a whole-scale ‘Chemical Revolution’, requiring a new generation of skilled and innovative chemists.

To help meet this need, the Universities of Oxford and York are to become the headquarters of a new Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT), called Chemical Synthesis for a Healthy Planet (CSHP). This collaboration between Oxford’s Department of Chemistry and the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence (GCCE) at the University of York aims to train a new generation of more than 70 synthetic chemists over the next seven years. The Centre will be led by Professor Michael Willis (Oxford), with co-investigators Professor Edward Anderson and Professor Véronique Gouverneur (Oxford), and Professor Helen Sneddon (York).

Professor Willis said:

The new CDT in Chemical Synthesis for a Healthy Planet is a ground-breaking programme that will target the training of synthetic chemists in cutting edge chemical synthesis, while intrinsically embedding circularity. It will revolutionise the training of the future synthetic chemistry workforce, equipping UK industry with the skills in sustainable chemical innovation that it urgently needs.

Doctoral students who join the CSHP CDT will undergo training in frontier synthetic methods and green chemistry concepts at both Oxford and York, before engaging with industry co-supervised projects to develop innovative, sustainable chemical strategies within pharma, agrochemicals, and materials contexts. In each case, students will be challenged to develop new chemical processes, whilst minimising waste, use of harmful reagents or catalysts, and benchmarking against sustainable performance metrics. Example projects could include ultra-concise synthesis, finding new ways to make common fluorine or sulfur-based compounds, or the implementation of designer solvents.

The CSHP CDT’s partnership with a wide range of SMEs will expose students to the cutting-edge of chemical innovation and develop their entrepreneurial skills. Students will become ‘Sustainability Ambassadors’, leading public engagement activities to promote better societal understanding of the importance of circular chemistry.

Professor Véronique Gouverneur said:

The CSHP CDT is a fantastic platform for young talented scientists to solve some of the most important problems that the chemical industry is currently facing.  The Oxford-York partnership augmented by our industrial partners and international links to the Centre for the Transformation of Chemistry (CTC, Germany) is a unique initiative that illustrates the importance of togetherness and teamwork when tackling global challenges.

Applications for CSHP CDT doctoral studentships are expected to open in September 2024 for the October 2025 intake. For more information, contact: