Imperial College London

Partnership targets radical transformation of process manufacturing

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Illustration of a factory close-up on a blue background

Imperial and China’s Jiangsu Industrial Technology Research Institute (JITRI) have launched a new partnership on intelligent process manufacturing.

The collaboration aims to improve the performance, safety, autonomous operation and environmental sustainability of process manufacturing. This includes some of the world’s most energy-intensive industries, from steel and cement production to agriculture and food.

Researchers from Imperial College London will work with colleagues from JITRI to design and develop processes, products and supply chains that are easy and safe to operate, robust, and energy efficient, with low environmental impacts. 

“We need to see a profound transformation of process manufacturing over the next 20-30 years,” says Professor Omar Matar, Head of Imperial’s Department of Chemical Engineering. “We’re excited to collaborate with JITRI on projects that can help kickstart that transformation and make these critical industries fit for the future.”    

Digital technologies offer enormous potential to modernise and decarbonise industry. Professor Sandro Macchietto Professor of Process Systems Engineering, Department of Chemical Engineering

The partnership will focus on the digitalisation of process manufacturing, including the development of digital twin models of manufacturing plants and processes and the application of mathematical models, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and advanced sensors.

“Digital technologies offer enormous potential to modernise and decarbonise industry. Not only can they be used to improve the performance and efficiency of manufacturing plants, but they also allow us to explore alternative scenarios, helping us to design processes that are intrinsically resilient to shocks, whether they may be due to process upsets, or market, supply or environmental disruptions,” says Sandro Macchietto, Professor of Process Systems Engineering and Partnership director.  

Imperial and JITRI researchers will look at how these digital technologies can be applied and integrated into complex applications through projects dealing with a range of challenges, from process optimisation and monitoring to advanced production planning and smart supply chains.

They hope to bring about a shift towards more autonomous systems by developing reliable, transparent and trustworthy algorithms that can support human decision making and improve sustainability by integrating energy and resource efficiency directly into process design.

Professor Qing Liu and Dr Benjin Luo
JITRI's Professor Qing Liu and Dr Benjin Luo pictured at the launch of the partnership

JITRI was founded in 2013 to build meaning collaborations between universities or scientific research institutions and industry, and to act as a bridge between global innovation resources and the Jiangsu Province in China. 

“Our mission is to overcome the structural and institutional barriers restricting scientific advances by creating an industrial technology innovation system that integrates industry, university and research to combine innovative resources, corporate needs and R&D capabilities,” says Professor Qing Liu, President of JITRI. “Our partnership with Imperial will play an important role in producing innovative, practical technologies to help transform industry.”

Professor Anna Korre, Co-Director of Energy Futures Lab, Imperial’s global energy institute, said the partnership would draw on Imperial’s strengths in transformative energy research in collaboration with industry.

“By working with our partners in JITRI, we are well placed to address important challenges that currently threaten the long-term viability and sustainability of key process manufacturing industries”.


Sara West

Sara West
Department of Chemical Engineering

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Conor McNally

Conor McNally
Faculty of Engineering


Strategy-collaboration, Sustainability, Engineering-AI-and-machine-learning, Industry, Engineering-Transition-to-zero-pollution-economy, Artificial-intelligence, Enterprise, Energy, Strategy-multidisciplinary-research, Engineering-Chemical-Eng, Research
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