A new £14 million programme will further develop the North West as a regional exemplar for low carbon innovation, skills and ‘green’ economic growth.
Launching now, ECO-I North West will work with more than 360 businesses across Lancashire, Liverpool City Region, Cumbria, Cheshire and Greater Manchester to support the research and development of low carbon technologies, products and services that will help drive a green economic recovery in all sectors.
Led by Lancaster University in partnership with the University of Central Lancashire, the University of Cumbria, the University of Liverpool, Liverpool John Moores University and Manchester Metropolitan University, the programme will save an estimated 3,850 tonnes of carbon emissions and enable businesses right across North West England to capitalise from the region’s extensive knowledge base and cutting-edge research facilities and skills.
The project builds directly on evidence identified in the North West Coastal Arc Partnership’s Science and Innovation Audit on Clean and Sustainable Growth. Commissioned by Government, this audit, led by Lancaster University, identified the strong potential for significant growth opportunities for businesses across all sectors resulting from a low carbon economy driven by the North West.
Eco-I North West will operate to deliver low carbon innovation to all sectors, but in particular will focus in the thematic areas of: Environmental Industries; Technology and Services; Future Energy Systems and Advanced Manufacturing; as well as Materials and Chemistry. It will increase the awareness, capacity and appetite of leaders of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) to embrace the opportunities research and development in clean growth can bring to their business.
Dion Williams, Director of Research Enterprise and Innovation at Lancaster University, said: “Despite the ongoing economic shock of Covid we need to look forwards as a region towards recovery and future growth. The global markets for clean and sustainable products, processes and services are enormous and growing, and the opportunities for North West businesses are significant. Lancaster University together with our partners are determined to support our region and our businesses to benefit from the green recovery and to establish the North West of England as a global exemplar for clean and sustainable growth.”
Professor Jessica Davies, Director of the Centre for Global Eco-Innovation at Lancaster University, said: “One thing the Covid crisis has shown us is the scale of the challenge to achieve net-zero is enormous. Even with all this disruption, global emissions this year are currently forecast to drop by only around 8 per cent. To get to net-zero, we urgently need to support and foster low-carbon skills, practices, and technologies.
“The North West is already an exciting hub of environmental and clean energy solutions. By bringing more businesses together, combining these with the excellent research skills and facilities in Lancaster and our partner institutions, and training a new wave of low-carbon innovators, we hope to help accelerate our transition to net-zero carbon living.”
Eco-I NW builds on a multiple award-winning eco-innovation model developed at Lancaster University’s ‘Centre for Global Eco-Innovation’, which over the last eight years has successfully supported more than 700 businesses, the creation of more than 300 jobs and has helped reduce carbon emissions with the development of more than 120 new low carbon products and services.
Supported with funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), Eco-I North West will accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy through forging clusters of major regional employers along with supply chain businesses and innovators, working across sectors on targeted challenges to develop new technologies and solutions.
The programme includes a focused blend of business leadership development, workshops, networking and includes a range of collaborative research and development activities tailored to the needs of each business. It also offers a capital grant scheme to enable businesses to pilot, prototype and demonstrate new technologies and their benefits.
It will foster a new generation of highly-skilled researchers through the delivery of more than 60 postgraduate research posts at PhD and Masters level all working directly with a local business. It also enables businesses to work with the pool of highly motivated and talented students across our universities through mutually beneficial internships and projects, enabling a new generation to apply their skills and talents to address immediate practical challenges.
Dr Andy Pickard, Manager of the Centre for Global Eco-Innovation, said: “This programme attracts talent to the region and enables businesses to access the world-leading understanding in our regional universities to drive R&D and business growth. Growth which needs to be clean and green to address urgent environmental challenges. As we develop new products, services and new ways to do business, the North West has the opportunity to take the lead and benefit from the transition to a low carbon economy.”