A five-year Research Programme Grant of £1.75 million from the Leverhulme Trust will bring together scientists, engineers, and architects to develop new natural materials capable of providing a renewable and energy-efficient alternative to traditional manufactured materials.


As the global population grows and becomes increasingly urban, traditional approaches to the construction of the built environment are unsustainable. Architecture and civil and structural engineering are among the most resource-intensive fields of human endeavour. Concrete and steel, energy intensive in production and significant contributors to global carbon dioxide, are used in most built infrastructure. Our vision is to establish new sustainable applications for renewable, energy-efficient and plant-based natural materials in the built environment, in order to improve building quality and mitigate the human impact on climate change.

The fundamental premise of our work is that natural materials are an essential component of a sustainable future, but that without modification, as history has shown, such materials are not up to the task. We propose to redesign natural materials to carry out different functions that will change the way we construct cities and civil infrastructure. This starts at the molecular level and continues through to engineered solutions that provide new approaches to sustainable living.

This programme brings together people and research in plant sciences, biochemistry, chemistry, fluid dynamics, engineering and architecture in a groundbreaking manner. It aims to fundamentally transform the way we build, and we will develop and extend research to enable the substitution of traditional manufactured materials with new naturally-based materials. A significant goal will be to ensure new materials are less energy intensive and more sustainable than those they replace.



Principal Investigator

Michael Ramage– Martin Centre, Cambridge

Lead Co- Investigators

Paul Linden- DAMTP
Paul Dupree– Biochemistry
Oren Scherman– Chemistry
Beatrix Schlarb-Ridley– Plant Sciences


Post-doctoral Researchers

Marta Busse– Biochemistry
George Fereday– Architecture
Tom Reynolds– Architecture
Darshil Shaw– Architecture
Guanglu Wu– Chemistry
Li Yu– Biochemistry