Low Carbon Innovation Forum – could your SME benefit?

Low Carbon Innovation Forum – could your SME benefit?

Businesses across Lancashire can reduce energy costs and bust myths around their carbon footprint - thanks to an innovative programme delivered by LUMS.

Launched last year by Lancaster University’s Centre for Global Eco-Innovation and Lancaster University Management School, the six month ‘Low Carbon Innovation Forum’ tailored specifically for Lancashire SMEs, aims to provide a space for local businesses to explore opportunities and understand what eco-innovation is. It helps businesses review energy usage to lower costs and spot opportunities to improve processes and automation; along with developing plans for products and services that could benefit their business and the environment.

So far, eleven businesses in Lancashire have benefited from the programme, from large food delivery and processing companies with high energy requirements, to providers of printing services, and innovators developing reusable healthcare products. Applications are now open for additional programmes beginning in March and June 2018.

Steph Stephenson, Managing Director of Stephensons Dairy in Morecambe, says the Forum has had a positive impact on her business, helping her to reduce energy costs and with it, environmental impact.

“For me, the standout experience was a company visit to Lancaster City Council, where we all got to see for ourselves the true scale of today’s plastic waste challenge. Up to then, I felt we were really doing something, but suddenly I felt we weren’t doing enough - but it completely inspired me to go back and make sure we hadn’t overlooked anything else that was possible.”

Steph signed up to the Low Carbon Innovation Forum in the hope of making savings. She said: “I was hesitant at first because I assumed – wrongly – that a lot of the things we’d talk about would be outside our reach, financially,” she says. “But actually the great thing is that it has shown me nothing is outside your reach, and that everything you do, no matter how small, has a positive impact.”

Stephensons Dairy was the first dairy in the UK to provide Free Range Milk and is a business committed to sustainability. As a result of the Low Carbon Innovation Forum, several opportunities have been identified for the business to strengthen this commitment, and make significant savings along the way.

She explains: “One of the first things we have done is put our lights on sensors, so now as soon as deliveries have been picked up, our fridges and the buildings go back to darkness. Plus we’re looking at the practicality of having the same plastic strips on our vans as we have on our doorways, to prevent energy wastage.

“In terms of addressing the serious issue of plastic, we’ve had customers say they’re trying to give up plastic as a New Year’s resolution, and we’re looking at getting their milk delivered in glass bottles. We’re also moving forward with supplying customers with pergal machines, so we can stop delivering 2L containers. And we’ve had four vans modified to take trolleys, to avoid shrink-wrapping deliveries for customers who don’t need it. It all adds up, and I’m keen to carry on looking at alternatives.”

Helen Wilkinson, Programme Manager at Lancaster University Management School, said: "For SMEs, achieving a sustainable business model has never been so important. What the Low Carbon Innovation Forum offers is access to the bigger picture: the chance to become part of a powerful network for sharing challenges and opportunities, supported by the latest ideas, tools and research from the academic community, business experts and masterclasses. The programme gives Lancashire businesses the time to reflect on their own business and find new solutions and opportunities to create competitive advantage - whilst benefiting the environment.”

The Low Carbon Innovation Forum, which is part of Boost; Lancashire’s business growth hub; is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, and is available to eligible ERDF SMEs. Senior decision makers of local businesses are invited to apply for a place on programmes starting in March 2018 and June 2018. For more information, contact Jane Hunter on 01524 593632 or lowcarboninnovation@lancaster.ac.uk