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 (UCLan), 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.

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. 

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.

UCLan’s Professor Karl Williams, Director for the Centre for Waste Management, said: “The impact of lockdown due to the Covid pandemic demonstrated how emissions improved in a short period of time including better air and water quality.

“It is imperative that as companies in the Northwest come out of these restrictions they are supported to embrace eco-innovation, so they can be competitive and prosper in a more carbon conscious manner.

“If we want to meet the UK carbon targets it will be through partnership working in the Northwest between universities and business. As one of the partner universities in this initiative, UCLan will be supporting SMEs in the Northwest through research and innovation projects to develop new products, reduce costs of product production and reduce carbon emissions.

“By developing a life-cycle thinking ethos within organisations it will help them to better manage their costs and carbon impact. This will make them more resilient to the current global financial challenges.”

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.”

The opportunity is available for businesses now.

Business wanting to understand how the progamme could support their growth should visit www.globalecoinnovation.org or alternatively call Ian Wright on 07970 744235 or Claire Mather on 07773 098578.