ULiege is taking part in the CISTEMEEC project, which aims to develop low-carbon industry and deploy the circular economy in Wallonia

The research groups GeMMe, GreenMat and PEPs of the University of Liege announce their participation in the CISTEMEEC project for the development of “industrial value chains, the transition energy, electric mobility and the circular economy”, involving a consortium of eleven Walloon partners covering the circularity of the electric mobility value chain.


he total budget of the CISTEMEEC project is 28.5 million Euros, the Walloon Region providing funding of 16.5 million Euros. The project will be developed under the coordination of Comet Traitements S.A. (Comet), a subsidiary company of Groupe Comet, a Belgian innovative company processing and recycling shredder residues (SR) which are by-products of the shredding of metallic wastes (End-of-Life Vehicles or ELV, Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment or WEEE and collected scrap).

CISTEMEEC is part of the Reverse Metallurgy+ portfolio submitted by the Reverse Metallurgy platform as part of a call launched by the Walloon Government for the implementation of the Circular Wallonia strategy which includes two priority value chains, metallurgy and construction. A total of 18 projects were selected and cover the themes of "low-carbon industry" and "circular economy", two pillars of the Wallonia Recovery Plan for which the Walloon Region has mobilized 113 million Euros. The 18 funded projects have a job creation potential of 991 direct jobs and 1,524 indirect sustainable jobs in sustainable sectors of activity.

The rise in electric mobility combined with the energy transition involving the increasing use of renewable energies is at the heart of the major evolution towards a low-carbon society. The energy carrier is no longer carbon, but a series of technological metals such as copper, cobalt, nickel, lithium, rare earth elements, or even precious metals such as platinum, palladium, rhodium and silver. This transition implies a structural demand shift for such metals and supports the construction of new industrial production capacities.

The circular economy, in synergy with the primary mining and metallurgical sector, will not only make it possible to underpin these necessary increases in production, but, in the case of the circular economy and recycling, also provide sustainable end-of-life management for consumer products equipped with a battery.

The CISTEMEEC project ambitions to grow three of these industrial value chains in Wallonia underpinned by the rise of the electric mobility and energy transition sectors:

  1. The Li-ion battery recycling sector. These batteries are currently collected and sold at negative cost to processing centers outside the Walloon Region.
  2. The copper metal value chain, copper being one of the main vectors for the electrification of our societies.
  3. The REE metal value chain generated through the processing of permanent magnets from electric motors which are currently lost in the flow of scrap metal for the steel industry.

The growth of these value chains is based in each case on a series of innovations and technological breakthroughs developed by the consortium partners during previous regional and European research projects. It provides competitiveness for local industrial stakeholders on these markets and supports the manufacturing of products with higher added value.

The participation to the CISTEMEEC project marks a further significant milestone in the long-term development plan of the GeMMe and ULiège in the management of metallic and mineral resources and in the field of recycling. Back in 2013, ULiège and the GeMMe were first instrumental in developing « Reverse Metallurgy », a EUR 60 million major Belgian circular economy project focused on metals linking industrial and academic partners within a Regional Technological Innovation Partnership to improve the recovery of metals from end-of-life products and complex raw materials. 

The Reverse Metallurgy+ portfolio, of which CIsTEMEEC is a part, aims to leverage the heritage of Reverse Metallurgy for the energy and digital transitions by functionalizing the links that unite three themes: Energy, Digital and Materials of the Future. New processes and technologies are the driving force behind Reverse Metallurgy+ in order to optimize local resources and reclaiming supply chains. The ambition of Reverse Metallurgy+ is to be a vector of reindustrialization for Wallonia, in particular by stimulating the creation of economic and human added value through the development of a unique know-how essential for the jobs of the future.

ULiège will participate in the CISTEMEEC project through three research entities:

  1. GeMMe is a research group specialized in georesources, mineral engineering and extractive metallurgy. Drawing on a long tradition of research in the extraction and processing of primary ores, the GeMMe contributes to the development of disruptive processes for the efficient management of mineral and metallic resources through its mastery of characterization, innovative sorting and hydrometallurgy techniques applied to urban ores.
  2. GREEnMat is a research laboratory specializing in the pilot-scale synthesis, shaping and characterization of powders and suspensions for applications related to energy, the environment and health. It has strong expertise and a unique infrastructure dedicated to the pilot-scale synthesis of active materials for batteries, the shaping of these materials for the production of electrodes as well as the design and characterization of batteries.
  3. PEPs (Products, Environment, and Processes) is a research group active in the fields of (bio-) chemical reaction engineering, thermal and mechanical unit operations, process simulation, low carbon energy systems and sustainable development. A major strength of the PEPs group is the capability to tackle problems on very diverse scales from molecular to designing entire processes.

The CISTEMEEC project activities will be carried out over a period of 4 years. On the basis of processes demonstrated at TRL stages 3 to 6 at the start of the project, industrial pilots and demonstrators will be implemented in order to reach TRL stages 6 to 8 for the Li-ion battery, copper and rare earth elements value chains originating form ELVs and WEEE.


Philippe GIARO |Senior Research Officer | GeMMe research group, ULiège

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