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Display of colourful plastic objects on glass display shelves in the MoDiP museum, AUB campus.

AUB awarded £1.6 million grant for research into Plastics Innovation


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Arts University Bournemouth (AUB) has secured funding from Research England to create a new Research Centre: Plastics Innovation and Curation. The centre will explore how plastics degrade over time or behave in different environments, resulting in research that'll have international relevance to both museum collections and modern manufacturing.

This innovative new venture will link the expertise of AUB’s Museum of Design in Plastics (MoDiP) with the design, manufacturing and testing capabilities of the Creative Technologies Research Group based at AUB’s Innovation Studio.

Dr Christian McLening, Director of Research and Development at AUB, will lead the new centre.

"The centre’s purpose is two-fold," he explains. "On the one hand, we’re curating and preserving a collection of plastics that make up our own rich product history. With the increased focus on alternative materials, there’s a danger that we’ll lose iconic plastic products from our everyday lives.

“On the other hand, we're exploring the environmental future of plastics and the role it plays in sustainability – when’s the best time to use plastics to ensure we’re developing better products and using plastic wisely. What happens to plastics in 20 years’ time? As it’s a relatively new material, we don’t know what'll happen to these products in the future, and to prepare for the future it’s vital we know this.

“Every household has a plastic bucket that’s become faded and brittle over time, but we don’t know why. That’s one of the many things this research centre will be looking to achieve, to understand how plastics behave and how this can shape and better design the products of tomorrow, specifically with reuse, recycling and repurposing in mind, to give them longevity.”

“This is a huge prize for the University and for all our environmental futures," adds Professor Paul Gough, Principal and Vice-Chancellor at AUB. "Understanding the preservation of ageing plastics is of international importance for those objects made of the material, and for the sustainable development of new plastics-based products.

“The research emanating from this large grant will be of immediate relevance to global design and manufacturing industries as well as museums, of which MoDiP at AUB is a national institution.”

The Expanding Excellence (E3) funding awarded to AUB will allow the creation of a materials lab to test and identify different types of plastics, coupled with an enhanced knowledge archive to support the conservation of plastics in museum collections.

It'll also provide specialist materials knowledge, informing how industry selects their materials for manufacturing. The funding will further support the development of a range of CPD courses to improve specialist knowledge around plastics conservation for both industry and heritage sectors and provide a consultative offer on plastics identification.

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