21 February 2013 12:21

Ambitious North West SMEs keen to drive forward eco-innovative ideas and products are invited to a major event in Manchester on March 4.

The afternoon begins with the launch of the £9.8 million Centre for Global Eco-Innovation, by leading entrepreneur and former Science Minister Lord Drayson, of Kensington. Part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) the aim of the centre is to support businesses develop innovative products which deliver environmental benefits.

The Centre unites the expertise, resources and global contacts of Lancaster University and University of Liverpool together with consultancy specialists Inventya Ltd, to undertake research, development and product commercialisation led by businesses.

The launch, at Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, will showcase the work of the centre and 50 Northwest SMEs benefitting from the intensive three-year long collaborative projects. Fifty graduate researchers, are using the ‘collaborations’ as the basis of a PhD programme of study, 25 at Lancaster University and 25 based at the University of Liverpool. They are supported by senior academic members of staff, all internationally-recognised experts in their fields. The three partner organisations will have exhibition stands alongside other support agencies.

The centre provides opportunities for a further 235 Northwest companies to be supported in the development and commercialisation of new eco-innovative products and services. This support may be in the form of three to six month research projects or through free support from innovation consultancy Inventya Ltd.

Centre manager Dr Andy Pickard said: “This is an exciting new opportunity for businesses seeking support to increase their R&D capability. We have established 50 long term projects running over three years. Opportunities now arise to work alongside these projects and for businesses with their own ideas for new products and services which show environmental benefits, which have shorter development time scales or need help to bring their products to market.”

Lord Drayson, who will officially launch the new centre at the exhibition (1.30pm to 4.30pm), gained his own PhD whilst working with industry. He is the Director of Drayson Cars Ltd, manufacturer of electric vehicles, and Managing Partner of Drayson Racing Technologies LLP, a business engaged in the research, development, testing and racing of green technology in motorsport.

The event will feature talks focusing on eco-innovation by Lord Drayson, the Vice Chancellor of Lancaster University Professor Mark E. Smith and the Director of Partnerships and Innovation at the University of Liverpool Mr John Flamson.

The event offers SMEs the opportunity to find out how to start a research and development project with the centre and to network with leading experts in eco-innovation, a wide range of local businesses, and national public and private organisations. Opportunities are available for a wide range of business sectors excluding retail.

Professor Sir David King, the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Head of the Government Office of Science (2000 - 2007) and founding director of the Smith School of Enterprise & the Environment at the University of Oxford, will chair the new advisory board for the Centre.