UK economy risks missing out on remanufacturing revolution

High value manufacturing is a real area of strength for the UK economy. It is also the area where the business case for remanufacturing is strongest. There are a number of opportunities for growth in British remanufacturing, particularly in sectors such as automotive, defence, aerospace, medical equipment, and electronics. Supporting remanufacturing and closed-loop resource use should be a no brainer. Incorporating remanufacturing into business models and products not only provides economic and environmental benefits, it can also create new opportunities for business growth and employment.

- Aleyn Smith-Gillespie, Associate Director at the Carbon Trust

The report contains the conclusions from a cross-industry workshop, hosted in association with the University of Birmingham, the University of Strathclyde, and UCL. It contains a number of recommendations for how the growth of remanufacturing can be supported, including the creation of new product quality standards, improving industrial design education, and introducing smarter regulation.

Recognising remanufacturing as a considerable innovation opportunity for the UK, the Knowledge Transfer Network set up an inquiry with the All-Party Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group early last year. This, and the second inquiry that followed, indicated major potential benefits for the UK along with some of the barriers and enablers. Although it is good news that there is now a Scottish Institute of Remanufacture based at the University of Strathclyde, a wider programme for the whole UK is really needed. The event outlined in this report, together with the new online community we've set up, indicate how we're building on this work and helping to bring expert institutions, academics and policy makers together with industry to explore the opportunity and realise the benefits that remanufacturing represents.

- Ben Peace, Sustainability Lead at the Knowledge Transfer Network

One of the businesses that participated in the workshop was Autocraft Drivetrain Solutions, an SME with around 160 employees based in Grantham, Lincolnshire. 

The business has started using innovative methods to remanufacture engines and other automotive components for a number of larger manufacturers, including Ford, Jaguar Land Rover, JCB and Aston Martin. State-of-the-art salvage techniques enable up to 85 percent of an original engine to be recovered and reused, dramatically lowering material costs and the associated environmental impacts.

As a business we have been around for over 40 years, manufacturing hundreds of thousands of engines. But since 2010, when as a senior management team we bought the company, we have seen a huge upswing in demand for remanufactured products, which gives us a great opportunity for growth. Our customers are large manufacturers that are very concerned about energy and resource costs, as well as the environmental impact of their products. Remanufacturing offers them a way to address all these issues. And we know how to produce high quality remanufactured engines and components, which in many cases can be better than the original. Today the UK has a global reputation for producing automotive components, but we risk falling behind other countries unless the right support is provided for remanufacturing. There are still some real barriers that need to be overcome, from securing a steady supply of core products to remanufacture, to getting staff with the right skills. But with the right support and policies we could very quickly scale up the business that we do today.

- Mike Hague-Morgan, Commercial and Engineering Director at Autocraft Drivetrain Solutions

Another company participating in the workshop was MCT Reman, an automotive supplier based in Weston-super-Mare that has been producing remanufactured engines and other powertrain components since the late 1960s.

MCT ReMan has longstanding remanufacturing relationships with some of the world’s leading automotive manufacturers. But as a business we want to expand this competence into other industries, including railways and renewable energy. We are currently developing remanufacturing strategies for the newer high cost products that will help to power the future, such as lithium ion battery packs and hydrogen fuel cells. One of the biggest barriers to overcome is that new products are still not being designed with remanufacturing and sustainability in mind. OEMs are driving down the cost of their own manufactured components and putting in place specifications that can affect the profitability of remanufacturers, meaning that it can be cheaper to replace a component rather than apply remanufacturing processes. We would like to see the government challenge OEMs to consider in more detail the sustainability of their products at the end of their useful lives, putting in place incentives and obligations that will support the infrastructure needed for a circular supply chain.

- Ian Briggs, Director of MCT’s Engineering Technology Services Division

Notes to Editors

For further information please contact the Carbon Trust press office on 020 7170 7050 or email

About the Carbon Trust

The Carbon Trust is an independent company with a mission to accelerate the move to a sustainable, low-carbon economy. The Carbon Trust:

  • advises businesses, governments and the public sector on opportunities in a sustainable, low-carbon world;
  • measures and certifies the environmental footprint of organisations, products and services;
  • helps develop and deploy low-carbon technologies and solutions, from energy efficiency to renewable power.

Read more about Carbon Trust's work on business model innovation

About the Knowledge Transfer Network

KTN Connects people. To speed up innovation, solve problems and find markets for new ideas. Established by Innovate UK to foster better collaboration between science, creativity and business, the Knowledge Transfer Network has specialist teams covering all sectors of the economy – from defence and aerospace to the creative industries, the built environment to biotechnology and robotics. Our expertise in connecting sectors, disciplines and skills with the right collaborations and business approach is helps unlock the tremendous hidden value in people and companies. In the last five years, KTN has helped thousands of businesses secure funding to drive innovation. And we support them throughout their business cycle to see that investment through to success.

About the High Speed Sustainable Manufacturing Institute (HSSMI)

The High Speed Sustainable Manufacturing Institute (HSSMI) is an independent not-for profit professional research and technology development organisation based in London, UK. HSSMI’s major aim is to support the manufacturing sector and provide support to effectively deploying new technologies for sustainable manufacturing.

HSSMI’s mission is to be the UK’s world-leading research base to provide commercial value and knowledge for the UK’s manufacturing industry. HSSMI will achieve this by bridging the gap between academia and industry to:

  • Conduct leading edge manufacturing research with the aim of improving the efficiency of UK & European manufacturers and supply chains
  • Deliver a step-change in UK manufacturing business efficiency and effectiveness
  • Bringing new knowledge to manufacturing
    • Industry sponsored PhD
    • Collaborative research programs

The institute was founded in 2012 as a joint undertaking between the UK government’s Department for Communities and Local Government, Ford Motor Company and Loughborough University. Its aim is to bring together academia, industry, local authorities and other stakeholders to support the quick adaptation of new technologies and approaches.

About the Centre for Remanufacturing and Reuse

The Centre for Remanufacturing and Reuse is an organisation based in the UK that specialises in advice and promotion on remanufacturing, reuse and reconditioning. We work internationally with businesses and governments on a range of different projects from market studies to carbon footprint analysis. We see remanufacturing as a way to strategically position companies close to their customer’s whist delivering economic and environmental savings.

Originally set up through Government funding to encourage remanufacturing and reuse of products by engaging with industry, the Centre now offers bespoke commercial research and consulting to businesses and governments. We see remanufacturing as an essential part of the circular economy for increasing profitability, reducing waste and minimising exposure to resource scarcity. It also makes industry more competitive which is important in this economic climate.

The Centre is embedded within Oakdene Hollins Ltd, a clean technology and resource management consultancy based in Aylesbury, UK.

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Leading experts from industry and academia have warned that the UK is lagging behind other advanced economies in harnessing the value in the rapidly growing remanufacturing industry. This warning follows the release of a new joint report from the Carbon Trust, Knowledge Transfer Network, High Speed Sustainable Manufacturing Institute, Centre for Remanufacturing and Reuse, and Coventry University.

Remanufacturing refers to manufacturing where parts or products at the end of their useful life are returned to like-new or better condition, with their quality supported by a warranty. These activities currently contribute around £2.4 billion to the British economy. However, with appropriate support this could be increased to £5.6 billion and create thousands of new skilled jobs.

A number of countries around the world – including the USA, China, Japan and Germany – have established centres of excellence or have strong policies specifically to support the growth of remanufacturing. However no equivalent framework of support exists across the UK, which is the issue the coalition behind the new report are seeking to address.

Download the report here.



For further information please contact the Carbon Trust press office on 020 7170 7050 or email