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Eco-I NW - Innovation Catalyst

Peer-learning programme designed to help north west businesses collaborate to develop new low carbon innovations for a prosperous and sustainable future.

Eco-I NW Innovation Catalyst funding logos which include: Eco-I North West, Centre for Global Eco-Innvation, European Regional Development Fund, Northern Powerhouse.

About the Catalyst

This is a historic programme that was funded by ERDF between 2014 and 2020. For further information about other business development opportunities please get in touch with us.

This Innovation Catalyst is designed for influential/ambitious SME leaders interested in connecting with academic expertise and like-minded peers to address the opportunities and challenges posed by the Net Zero Carbon agenda.

By creating the space to innovate and collaborate, this fully funded programme works to build resilient, sustainable innovation ecosystems in specific sectors across the North West. The Innovation Catalyst is a proven and powerful way of helping individual firms and regional collectives with shared issues to develop effective long-term solutions that capture greater value for them and for the region.

Over a six-month period we will facilitate a series of investigative and action-focused ‘Innovation Collaboratories’ to collectively map out your goals, challenges, and innovation needs - drawing in the right expertise at the right time for you. The aim of the Catalyst is to build an ecosystem of businesses, industry experts, academics, public sector bodies and other interested parties to solve both individual and shared challenges.

This programme is designed and delivered by Lancaster University Management School and forms part of Eco-I North West, a £14m project led by The Centre for Global Eco-Innovation at Lancaster University and in partnership with the universities of Central Lancashire, Cumbria, Liverpool, Liverpool John Moores and Manchester Met.

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What's Involved?

To stimulate innovation participants will be grouped based on a shared challenge which they will address with a solution-driven, collaborative approach. As a result, programme content is emergent and ultimately shaped by you and the other business leaders in your group.

Tab Content: Catalyst Activation

The programme begins by forming the ‘Innovation Catalyst’ at a two-day, induction event designed to stimulate ideas for tackling challenges in the sector. This immersive start will develop the peer group; building trust, creating bonds and developing interaction and energy to activate ideas and commitment to tackle the challenge. The process works through mapping goals, challenges and needs. A shared commitment will be formed.

Tab Content: Innovation Collaboratories

Expertly facilitated by Lancaster University Management School, Innovation Collaborations are a solutions focused space to exchange knowledge, share expertise and resources to accelerate innovation and encourage exponential change. Opportunity to experiment with new ideas and discuss solutions to challenges with policy makers, influential business leaders and academic experts.

An expert speaker will join the group to inspire and inform on a specific topic, thereby creating a sense of urgency. This will galvanise the group to act by seeking further research information.

Tab Content: Challenge Action Groups

These break-out sessions will be formed independently by delegates in either pairs or smaller groups (accompanied by an Engagement Fellow). They will provide the group with space to actively experiment, test and learn from ideas developed during facilitated activity. This could include researching innovation barriers such as resource constraints, organisational structures, processes, or stakeholder conflicts. Findings will be shared with the wider group. This process seeks to develop insight and idea generation - accelerating innovation.

Engagement Fellows are Lancaster University students who provide insight, perspective and resource as equal members of the Catalyst taskforce. Recruited from faculties across the university, they bring diverse knowledge, expertise and ideas to the Challenge Action Groups. As representatives of the future generation of innovators, Fellows actively contribute to ideas generation and project planning, inform process through research and development, and accelerate progress through collaboration.

Tab Content: Closing Symposium

This session will reflect on the groups journey and ensure that action is planned to continue to tackle the challenges outside of the Catalyst. Regrouping and sharing of activity. By this point, the group will have developed an ecosystem of firms, industry experts, academics, support service providers and others that has the ability to solve/has solved both individual and shared challenges.

Eco-I NW Innovation Catalyst Cohort 1

Cohort 1 of Eco-I North West's Innovation Catalyst was for the Cumbrian Food and Drink Sector. This cohort worked to develop effective and sustainable solutions to the big environmental issues that effect their organisations and the region.

Benefits to Business

  • To lead a sustainable revolution in your sector
  • Collaborate and engage with key stakeholders to accelerate idea creation
  • Access cutting edge research, facilities and expertise at Lancaster and partner universities
  • Mobilise new ideas though collective experimentation, testing, prototyping and innovation
  • Work with like-minded business leaders to tackle key challenges in your sector
  • Develop own leadership through critical thinking, reflection, collaboration generating greater capacity and confidence
  • Future proof your business in the changing environment
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Discover more support

Eco-I North West is the first project of its kind that opens up huge regional resource to businesses, working across a wide range of sectors, research disciplines and project themes. Delivered by a consortium of six universities this funded initiative also offers businesses a range of short-term or in-depth research and development support.

R&D Support

Costs & Eligibility

This programme is fully funded and is available to businesses which are eligible under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) criteria, as follows:

  • Based in North West England
  • Employ fewer than 250 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees
  • Annual turnover of less than €50 million (or the equivalent in GBP)
  • Received less than €200,000 of de minimis State Aid in the last 3 years.

Find out more about how and why Lancaster University and our funding bodies holds your information.