Project duration: 1 January 2018 – 31 March 2020 


Critical raw materials are materials which we need for current and future products and technologies, but which are now or soon difficult to acquire. This can be for a variety of reasons: e.g. because they are scarce in the Earth’s crust, as they are only available in specific regions, their price is so volatile that there are periods when they are unaffordable, or because of their mining and processing cause environmental or social problems. These materials often have special properties that make them important for modern applications such as electronics or new energy technologies.

IRTC is an international network of experts in critical raw materials who work on definitions and assessments on which materials are or will be critical in the future. Since „criticality“ depends on the perspective – e.g. how scarce a material is in one’s own region, or how much of it is needed in an economy or a technological sector – these approaches differ.

The solution (technology)

The project will establish an international roundtable on approaches towards assessing materials criticality, taking place at established international conferences, creating synergies between different audiences such as experts in resource planning, industrial ecology, Life Cycle Assessment, and product development. The results will be published as three joint scientific papers for an expert audience and a Roadmap on Criticality for authorities.

IRTC will also educate junior researchers, engage with industry and advice authorities on how to integrate the topic into strategies and policies on a national and global level. Its final goal is a long-lasting international collaboration.


  • ESM Foundation, Switzerland (Lead Partner)
  • The French geological survey (BRGM), France
  • Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
  • Colorado School of Mines, USA
  • Critical Materials Institute, US Department of Energy, USA
  • Empa Materials Science and Technology, Switzerland
  • Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der angewandten Forschung e.V., Germany
  • Ghent University, Belgium
  • Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, Directorate D: Sustainable Resources (JRC), Italy
  • Korea Institute of Industrial Technology KITECH, Korea
  • Leiden University, Netherlands
  • Los Alamos Laboratory, USA
  • National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES) Japan, Japan
  • Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia
  • Delft University of Technology, Netherlands
  • US Geological Survey (USGS), USA
  • Université de Bordeaux, France
  • University of Southern Denmark, Denmark
  • University of Waterloo – School of Environment, Enterprise and Development, Canada
  • University of York, United Kingdom
  • Yale University, USA

More information is available on the IRTC project website.