Lancaster University programme helps SMEs blaze trail to net zero

Lancaster University is helping small businesses blaze a trail to net zero through a programme offering free access to world-leading academic expertise and cutting-edge resources.

22 companies have so far collaborated with the university as part of the Low Carbon Eco-Innovatory (LCEI), a business support programme for the Liverpool City Region which aims to help reduce their carbon emissions and accelerate growth.

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 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. 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 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.”

Extreme Low Energy (ELe), founded in Formby but now based in Skelmersdale, designs energy-efficient ultra-low energy building and housing solutions to help a wide variety of markets - including education, off-grid leisure, commercial and industrial, housing, security and horticulture - make the transition to a net-zero carbon environment.

The business partnered with Lancaster University on a research project to investigate and develop a disruptive business model to take its innovative data server cooling solution - which can reduce server operating costs and carbon output by over 70% - to market. 

Mark Frost, chairman of ELe, said: “ELe is like a lot of SMEs in that we have limited time, capacity, resources and funds to grow our business and remain competitive. However, we do recognise the value that partnerships with universities bring. 

“Co-creating alongside academics and leveraging their resources in a non competitive environment has been vital to the success of our company and accelerated our innovations from idea to the marketplace.

“The project at Lancaster has helped to clearly identify and define the opportunity for ELe going forward in what is a very challenging and fast-growing sector.”

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.
For more information visit www.lancaster.ac.uk/global-eco-innovation/business/lcei/ or contact Carolyn Hayes via email c.hayes2@lancaster.ac.uk.