Powering the low carbon revolution

An ambitious initiative to put Lancashire at the heart of the low carbon revolution is powering up its efforts to support the innovators driving the new green economy.

RedCAT is on a mission to deliver funding and support for developing technologies, accelerating their journey through capital investment at every stage – from R&D to demonstration, first sale and onto scale-up.

Investment is coming from a mix of public, private and venture capital and equity sources, all eager to put their money behind viable tech projects sourced and fully researched by RedCAT. The aim is for the not-for-profit venture to eventually operate on a national scale.

Closer to home, the ultimate vision for Lancashire is to see innovative low carbon products manufactured in the county and exported across the globe.

The first signs of the difference such an approach can make can now be seen. The Lancashire Centre for Alternative Technologies, to give RedCAT its full title, based at Claytonle-Moors, is currently working to support and advise 20-plus SMEs.

It received a major boost last year when it was named as one of 10 ‘shovel ready’ projects in the county earmarked for a share of government Covid recovery cash. And it is working hard to ensure the £1.5m received from the ‘Getting Building Fund’ makes a real difference.

RedCAT’s support for Lancaster Universitybased Advanced Bacterial Sciences (ABS) has helped it secure a further £500,000 deal to add to its RedCAT investment, to enable it to commercialise the results of its research.

When it comes to innovation you don’t have to invent new technologies

ABS creates, manufactures, and sells biological solutions for a range of real-world pollution and maintenance problems.

The funding has been provided by NPIF - Maven Equity Finance, which is managed by Maven Capital Partners and is a part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF).

The investment will enable ABS to commercialise its portfolio of products, sell directly to end users, as well as invest in continuous product development, patenting future technologies and scientific advances.

It will keep the business, and the jobs it is creating, in Lancashire, with the money enabling ABS to open a laboratory and office in Morecambe.

And on top of that ABS will create an innovation centre that will “co-locate other complementary start-ups and researchers” to carry out their innovation.

This centre of excellence will be an incubator to create specialist jobs for the area, reducing the ‘brain drain’ currently happening in local higher education institutes

. The ABS team already has several product lines harnessing bacterial solutions that address pressing environmental problems and cover multiple large scale markets including hospitality, sanitation, water management, agriculture, property and construction.

RedCAT is currently based at East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce’s offices. Chamber chief executive Miranda Barker, who is also a Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) board member, has been one of its driving forces.

She says that the £1.5m RedCAT received from the government will lead to £10m of investment and support so far, creating around 100 jobs.

Miranda, whose background is in the environmental sector, is excited by its prospects and says the backing ABS has received highlights the difference RedCAT can make.

She says: “We’re looking to create manufacturing opportunities and jobs in Lancashire and to see low carbon innovation from the county exported overseas as part of the move towards the global net zero carbon target.

“ABS was being courted by the Oxbridge golden triangle as well as the Manchester and Liverpool city regions.

“The investment has secured them for Lancashire and in the next couple of years they will create another 50 jobs.”

Ian Trow, a consultant with RedCAT, has been working closely with ABS and is delighted the business was persuaded to scale-up in Lancashire.

He says it is a good example of the role the programme can play. And he adds: “The RedCAT goal is to facilitate the value Lancashire can bring to scale up industries. It is about making things happen.”

Global Energy Systems (GES), a leading air source heat pump manufacturer based in Lytham, is also benefitting from RedCAT support, which has helped the growing business secure funding towards the construction of its new factory.

Stewart Thompson, the family-owned business’ national sales manager, says GES is well poised to take advantage of the UK’s net zero ambitions.

He explains: “There are about 1.5million fossil fuel boilers sold every year in the UK, currently the air source heat pump (ASHP) market in the UK is around 40,000 units.

“The government has a target that industry will install 600,000 ASHP’s per year by 2028.”

The new GES facility at Lytham, which represents a “significant investment” by the business on top of the funding received, will initially enable it to increase production four-fold.

Stewart says: “This is just the first phase of planned investment by the Morris family, who own GES, to increase production capability to meet customer demand as well as well as develop new products here in Lancashire.”

Ged Heffernan is managing director at Nelson-based consultancy Fern Innovation, which provides support to start-ups and SMEs. He has also been working with RedCAT to help businesses and says: “When it comes to innovation you don’t have to invent new technologies. Often it is about using existing technologies in a different way.”

RedCAT has other functions. It is partnering the Chamber Low Carbon pan-Lancashire support programme looking to help every SME in the county transition to net zero and is building close links with the Low Carbon Manufacturing Building Demonstrator in the new Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) at Samlesbury.

Its activities are also attracting the attention of green entrepreneurs. Richard Hagan, managing director of award-winning Rochdale manufacturer Crystal Doors, has opened an office in the chamber building to be close to its operation.

Crystal Doors has been at the forefront of digital manufacturing and has received the Queen’s Award for Sustainability. The aim of the Lancashire office is networking and collaboration as it works to develop new sustainable products as part of the circular economy.

Richard, a native of Burnley, believes good things are happening in Lancashire. Miranda Barker agrees. She says: “Richard’s decision to open an office here highlights the business network we are building and underline’s RedCAT’s role in supporting innovation and growth in the green economy.”