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Innovate UK partners with LCM and Xplore! Science Discovery Centre to deliver educational workshops on rare earth metals for green technology.

8 Feb 2024

Innovate UK partners with LCM and Xplore! Science Discovery Centre to deliver educational workshops on rare earth metals for green technology.

The ‘Mine to Magnet’ School Workshop, the first of its kind, has received funding from Innovate UK to enhance education surrounding critical materials for green technology.

This fundamental workshop is aimed at primary school-aged learners, and it is split into six key steps of the supply chain for neodymium iron boron (NdFeB) permanent magnets required for electric vehicles.

Less Common Metals (LCM), an SME based in Ellesmere Port, manufactures complex alloy systems and metals predominantly for the permanent magnet industry. You can find many of these alloys in everyday items such as laptops, mobile phones, headphones, and speakers. The larger permanent magnets are used in wind turbines and electric vehicles. The company exports to 17 countries and sits in the mine to magnet supply chain as a midstream manufacturer.

Xplore! is a Wrexham-based Science Discovery Centre and charity, aiming to communicate science innovatively to all ages. The centre features hands-on exhibits for exploration and experimentation. They conduct educational workshops for school children, either at the centre or within schools. As part of their offer, they also work with local industry partners that share similar values; those who want to engage with their future employees or those who simply want to invest in their local community. Workshop sponsorship is one of the ways that Xplore! can marry their work with that of local businesses, bringing real-world examples to life through their interactive workshops.

LCM is a firm believer that education and bridging the gap between businesses and schools should be a key part of ensuring an industry-relevant talent pipeline. The company sees this as being crucial to change perceptions and prepare the next generation to see the value of the rare earth industry and how it impacts their lives, especially with the UK Green Targets on the horizon.

Initially, in 2021, Xplore! and LCM worked together in the design, development and delivery of the workshop and engaged 250 year 5 and 6 students in primary schools local to LCM.

Georgia Rigoni, Communications Executive at LCM said: “We are thrilled to receive support from Innovate UK to propel this workshop and accelerate delivery to a further 1500 children within the Northwest and North Wales region. The aim has always been to engage more young learners and the thought that this could be rolled out nationally is very exciting”.

Katie Williams, Business Development Manager at Xplore! Science Discovery Centre said: “Having worked with the team at LCM to create the first ‘Mine to Magnet’ engagement workshops for primary-aged children, were thrilled that, through Innovate UK, there continues to be a legacy to the project through the roll-out of the workshops, and we’re excited to get started in 2024.”

Martyn Cherrington, Programme Lead for Circular critical materials supply chains at Innovate UK said: “We are delighted that our partnership will help Xplore! and LCM expand the reach of these workshops to many more primary school children. This is a fantastic initiative that will inspire the next generation about the importance of rare earth metals for the energy transition.”

The 45-minute workshop is tailored to the National Curriculum and consists of six hands-on activities from identifying where rare earth elements come from, extraction and separation, crushing of metal to oxides, heating and moulding of alloys, magnets, and permanent magnets in electric vehicles.

This project will help to create a region of educated students who are more likely to study geography, chemistry, and geology which will feed into the education system to create employees for the future for LCM and other companies within the supply chain, reducing the future skills shortage. If you are interested in booking the Mine to Magnet Workshop, please contact Xplore! Science Centre’s booking team at bookings@xplorescience.co.uk and we will be happy to deliver the workshop permitting demand.

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