SME manufacturers are among the first to sign up to a first-of-its-kind research and development programme for low carbon innovation.

Eco-I North West is a £14 million initiative offering businesses the opportunity to collaborate with and access the extensive knowledge base, cutting-edge research facilities, and skills of six of the region’s leading universities – Lancaster, Central Lancashire, Cumbria, Liverpool, Liverpool John Moores and Manchester Metropolitan.

The programme, part funded by the European Regional Development Fund, will work with more than 300 small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) across the region over the next two years, supporting the development of 135 new innovative solutions which will save 3,850 tonnes of CO2. This is support for businesses to build back better, enabling R&D, and building networks to drive innovation, which is good for business and better for the environment.

Among the 80+ businesses signed up to Eco-I NW is Fibrestar Drums, based in Stockport, a manufacturer of fibre drums innovating with new materials and solutions which will have a lasting impact on the environment. Colin Pardoe, Managing Director, said: “For the last two years we have been innovating to produce Europe’s first conical and nestable 100% fibre (kraft) container primarily for the agricultural sector which is edible by livestock with no waste, as well as having 66% less CO2 than a plastic pail and helping soil enrichment which also acts as a carbon sink.

“Working with Lancaster University through the Eco-I NW programme we are driving that innovation forward to explore how we can apply our product to other materials for applications in other sectors. It is an exciting opportunity to access world-class academic expertise and facilities for innovation and develop solutions which will have a lasting impact on the environment, while supporting the growth of the business.”

Enviroo, based in Manchester, specialises in turning plastic bottles into the raw material for new food-grade packaging, is also developing low carbon innovation. Ahmed Detta, CEO & founder, said: “Our partnership with Lancaster University through the Eco-I NW programme is the perfect fit for our company. It will give us access to the research body of a prestigious university, and essentially create an R&D arm for our young enterprise, to help us achieve our long-term business goals.”

Others manufacturers signed up to Eco-I NW are:

  • Biotech Services, based in Sandbach, a manufacturer exploring the use of extracted organic production waste to create new products such as fabrics, regenerative medicine, biodegradable packaging and batteries.
  • Kerax, based in Chorley, a wax manufacturer innovating with hydrogenated vegetable waxes and solutions to reduce the energy and CO2 emissions involved in transporting wax products.
  • CO2 Extraction, based in Morecambe, specialists in the extraction of high value bio-active compounds and oils from botanicals;
  • Silverwoods Waste Management, based in Altham, Lancashire, an industrial waste recycling specialist, is researching the sequestration and capture of carbon within agricultural soils.