Torftech

Torftech works on the development and exploitation of process reactor technologies in a variety of industries. The business has historically been made up of plant sales with limited influence from the company regarding the application of their technology or the products generated from it. Therefore, they worked with the University on a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with the aim to gain a fundamental understanding of those products in order to enable the company to capitalise on this and enter new markets. 

About the project

The original aim of the project was to develop two product streams:

• a pulverised coal injection (PCI) product for blast furnaces in the steel industry with superior performance to currently available PCIs; and

• a range of carbon chars and ashes produced from the Company’s gasifiers and combustors for application as activated carbon or other industrial materials.

The rationale behind these choices was that the company’s reactor technology was believed to have the potential to produce a range of high-performance carbons which could be designed to have superior performance characteristics compared to existing products. The world markets for both groups of products are large, thereby affording a good business opportunity for the sale of manufacturing plant or royalties from technology in these international markets.

Outcomes: the business perspective

The KTP project was perceived as being central to the business achieving their growth strategy and it has fulfilled this, with two products developed, tested and in some cases now already being marketed, and others in process of commercialisation. 

Developing new knowledge and capabilities in order to fulfil previously unmet market needs has enabled the company to climb up the value chain by being able to understand the capabilities of their technology to create products in two large volume markets. The KTP project has therefore achieved a significant shift into understanding the commercially viable products that can be produced using the company’s technology. Mr Chris Dodson OBE DL of Torftech commented that: “the knowledge learned has surprised us all with the breadth of possible commercialisation strategies and channels.”

The knowledge gained in the char market is likely to transform the economics of the company’s power generation plant by creating value for the resultant chars and ashes, which previously had no commercial value and incurred expense to landfill. 

Additionally, the Associate remained at the company after the project close, continuing the company’s commitment to ongoing research and development.

Outcomes: the University perspective

Of the Associate, Robert Blissett, Professor Jenny Jones commented: “We had an exceptional KTP Associate on this project which was the key to its success. This facilitated a highly productive collaboration leading to both technological and academic advances. The collaboration will continue beyond the lifetime of the KTP.”

Benefits to the University include strengthened links with the company, and informed teaching through increased understanding of the status of biomass projects in the UK and at the company. 

Furthermore, the Chairman of Torftech sat on the advisory board of the University’s Centre for Doctoral Training in Bioenergy and has assisted in the development of the industrial and outreach network. There have been various broader research activities between Leeds and Torftech, including three student projects resulting from the KTP, as well as three Academic papers in preparation, based on the results of the project. 

Future plans
Torftech will capitalise on the knowledge gained for a decade or more in the future, and are investing in continuing product development utilising the Company’s technologies.

Following the conclusion of the KTP in September, in November, Chris Dodson was invited to join a delegation to India led by the UK Prime Minister the Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

Find out if a Knowledge Transfer Partnership could help your business by contacting the KTP team at the University of Leeds at 
ktp@leeds.ac.uk.

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