Small businesses are blazing a trail to net zero through a programme giving them free access to world-leading academic expertise and cutting-edge resources.
22 companies have so far collaborated with Lancaster University as part of the Low Carbon Eco-Innovatory (LCEI), a business support programme which aims to help Liverpool businesses reduce their carbon emissions and accelerate growth.
These include aerial theatre company Wired, software developer Connect 4.0, composite technologies specialist A2O Technology group, civil engineers Mole Group Utilities, heating elements manufacturer 2D Heat, low energy product specialist Extreme Low Energy (ELe), water treatment specialists Arvia Technology and interior solutions provider EFG UK.
By partnering with Lancaster University through funded research and development projects, ranging from one month to 12-months, some of these SMEs have identified areas to reduce their carbon footprint, while others have tested, developed and commercialised low carbon products, processes and services.
Collectively, these businesses have saved more than 170 tonnes of greenhouse gases – more than two-thirds of the programme’s target.
And with 18 fully funded internships and five part-funded 12-month Masters by Research projects available to the next batch of sustainability-driven Liverpool-based SMEs, more is to come.
Carolyn Hayes, LCEI Project Manager at Lancaster University, a delivery partner for the project, said: “SMEs play a major role in economies worldwide and Liverpool is no exception where they make up 99%* of the business community. It is therefore crucial that SMEs are equipped with the tools and resources needed to make their impact on creating a low carbon future.
“But the most common barrier to SME from taking action is a lack of resources, such as personnel, knowledge and time, and knowing where to start. That is how the LCEI programme can help.
“Our support is designed for companies at all stages of their low carbon journey. We will work closely with them to identify a bespoke course of action harnessing the skills and expertise of undergraduates, postgraduates and world-renowned academics, and leveraging our plethora of world-class facilities.
“I would encourage leaders of SMEs across Liverpool to start a conversation with us about how LECI could help to reduce costs and their carbon footprint, improve performance, and future proof their business in a low carbon future.”
Wired, an internationally acclaimed aerial theatre company based in Liverpool City Centre, moves its people and equipment across the globe for performances and wants to reduce its carbon footprint.
Michaela Anders, Director of Learning and Participation, said: “Transporting large numbers of people and equipment across the globe is traditionally pretty harmful to the environment. Finding solutions to those challenges requires innovative thinking and collaboration.
“We’ve always strived to run the business with as little environmental impact as possible, and this internship has provided us with an extra resource to help us focus our sustainability efforts on quick returns and cost-effective approaches, lots of practical ideas and a policy to drive forward.”
Software developer Connect 4.0, based in Liverpool City Centre, used its intern to accelerate a prototype for its innovative 3D printing platform, Autentica Parts, which is now used around the world.
Irma Vitoriano, founder, said: “The technology we are developing would allow products to be manufactured in situ-rather than being made and then physically distributed across the world. This has the potential to revolutionise modern manufacturing, reduce materials used, the need for transportation, and cut Co2 emissions. The social impact of this could also be huge, giving remote communities in developing countries the possibility to have essential products and maintenance parts manufactured within the community.
“With the support of a funded intern we were able to develop the concept and accelerate several technical innovations which helped us.”
Arvia Technology, based in Runcorn, benefits from a part-funded Master’s Research project to help develop an award winning, patented technology – the Nyex Rosalox water treatment system – which removes and destroys aqueous organic and chemical pollutants.
Simon Gatcliffe, CEO, said: “It has taken years of marginal gains achieved through R&D partnerships like the one with Lancaster University to effectively combine the technologies of adsorption and oxidation to overcome many of the drawbacks of using each in their own right. We can now target new markets with a very efficient, low-energy process.
“As an SME the business does not have the resources to undertake more speculative research into longer-term opportunities, LCEI has been a tremendous partnership with a multitude of benefits to the environment and the business. It has further strengthened Arvia’s desire to pursue future academic collaborations to develop low-carbon solutions to removing pollutants in water and wastewater.”
LCEI is a business R&D consortium, backed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), and led by Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) alongside partners Lancaster University and the University of Liverpool.
Since its launch in 2015, the Low Carbon Eco-Innovatory has supported 350 businesses on projects which have saved 10,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases.