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The UK Defence and Security Accelerator has funded Uplift360, a green tech start-up that has initiated a circular economy around body armour.

DASA provided Uplift360 with £500,000 of funding to develop an eco-friendly and low energy method of recycling the body-armour, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on 29 August. 

According to ‘The Global Body Armor and Personal Protection Market Forecast 2023-2033’ report from GlobalData estimates that the current value of the UK body armour sector is $176.8m and is expected to rise to $282.6m  by 2033.

Uplift360, a veteran-run business that is chaired by Lieutenant General Richard Nugee CB CVO CBE, the current MoD non-executive member for the Defence Safety and Environmental Committee, developed a process to recycle end-of life body armour fibres, commercially known as Kevlar, that would otherwise be destined for an incinerator. 

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By GlobalData

“Their innovative approach could reduce wastage, save money and secure supply without compromising on high quality kit for our armed forces,” said Minster of State for Defence, Baroness Goldie. The MoD suggested that in the future this could lead to a significant reduction in the cost for body armour, as Kevlar is currently estimated at being 85 time more expensive than steel. Body armour, used by all services to protect against small arms fire and blast fragmentation, only has a shelf life of around 5 years, with a unit cost of up to £3,000.

The Uplift360 process turns waste para-aramid fibres from end-of-life body armour into a liquid using sustainable chemicals before spinning the liquid back into a material with very similar qualities to the material currently used in body armour. “The process designed by Uplift360 is a really good example of how new and intelligent thinking can transform old practices in Defence,” said Goldie. “Their innovative approach could reduce wastage, save money and secure supply without compromising on high quality kit for our armed forces.”

The DASA funding is inline with an MoD Climate change and Sustainability Strategy released in March  that noted the requirement for elements of the circular economy in the defence industry.