February saw the successful launch of the Clean Futures Catalyst, a major component of the Clean Futures programme, marked by two key events hosted by its project partners.

EVENT ONE – ‘Business Loves the Planet’ Networking Event

On February 14th, the Black Country Innovative Manufacturing Organisation (BCIMO) hosted the very first Clean Futures Catalyst networking event, aptly named ‘Business Loves the Planet’ for Valentines Day, at its Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre (VLRNIC) in Dudley, West Midlands.

This event marked the launch of a bi-monthly series of Clean Futures Catalyst networking events, showcasing BCIMO’s commitment to sustainable practices and innovation within the local region.

The event attracted 36 representatives from local businesses to BCIMO’s 130-seater Auditorium for a morning of networking, topical presentations and business introductions. For many visitors it was their first time at the centre and a great introduction to the work carried out within the unique rail facility, comprising Rail Development and Test Site, Meeting & Event Spaces, Engineering Laboratories and Equipment, and Serviced Offices and Meeting Rooms.

Cllr Patrick Harley, Marco Longhi MP, Huw Merriman, Neil Fulton and Colin Knight
(l-r) Davie Carns (NIS), Malcolm Cowgill (City of Wolverhampton College), Tavoy Wilson (Learner at NIS), Andy Street (Mayor of the West Midlands) and Lynn Parker (City of Wolverhampton College)

Delegates heard from Helena Davies, Events Manager, about the centre’s facilities, followed by Alec Gillham, Strategic Development Partner, who introduced the Clean Futures Catalyst and outlined the series of best practice visits, best practice workshops and online masterclasses that will be taking place.

A standout moment of the morning was Helen Wolf’s presentation titled ‘How to Grow a Green Business’. Her expertise shed light on practical strategies for businesses to thrive in an environmentally conscious landscape, resonating well with the attendees who were keen on incorporating sustainability into their operations.

Following the presentations, each delegate had a few moments to introduce themselves to the room and explain what their business entails. Some also chose to share how they were already fighting for change within the business and hoping to make greener choices moving forward.

The success of this inaugural event, and the fantastic feedback, has set the stage for the upcoming Clean Futures Catalyst bi-monthly networking series. The next networking event is titled ‘Power & Energy’ and is scheduled for Wednesday 17th April – registration details to follow soon!

(l-r) Davie Carns (NIS), Malcolm Cowgill (City of Wolverhampton College), Tavoy Wilson (Learner at NIS), Andy Street (Mayor of the West Midlands) and Lynn Parker (City of Wolverhampton College)

EVENT TWO – Catalyst Launch Event

The official launch event took place on Wednesday 28th February at the STEAMhouse in Birmingham, where start-up companies joined larger transport firms further up the supply chain to find out what the Clean Futures Catalyst is all about.

The event, hosted by Coventry University in partnership with the Innovative Transport Working Group (ITWG), a network within the West Midlands Innovation Programme – delivered by the Innovation Alliance for the West Midlands, was hugely successful, receiving considerable positive feedback and fulfilling its aims and objectives.

The morning kicked off with presentations from Coventry University’s Innovation Director – Paul Fairburn; Connected Places Catapult’s Executive Director of SME Development and Academic Engagement – Alexander Weedon; Mike Wright – Chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority’s Innovation Board; and Chris Lane – Head of Transport Innovation at Transport for West Midlands.

Between them they introduced and positioned the Catalyst within the wider Clean Futures programme, and also the Clean Futures programme within the wider programme of West Midlands innovation activity and in relation to the current activities and future goals for transport within the region.

Delegates then heard from Marcus Henry of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) and Stephen Brydon of the Great British Railways Transition Team (GBRTT) who outlined recent developments in transitioning the road and rail sectors towards net zero.

Solar powered cellular gateways collate sensor data and send it to a cloud-based data portal
Senceive use the facility for training sessions with in-house and external groups

A panel discussion on net zero and the supply chain heard from Natalie Wadley of ChangeMaker 3D, a Clean Futures Accelerator Cohort 1 winner based at BCIMO, and Les Gill of Global Nano Network, another Cohort 1 winner based at Coventry University, who were joined on stage by Marcus and Stephen.

The panel presented and discussed some of the challenges and opportunities that arise when developing sustainable products and systems for transport applications, with higher costs being identified as a key barrier to be addressed moving forward.

The day ended with presentations from Brian Stevens – Lead Business Advisor, Deepak Farmah – Head of Innovation, Richard Lane – Head of Digital Transformation and Marcos Kaufmann – Director of the Institute for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering (AME) from Coventry University. These were followed by Olivia Brown – BCIMO’s Operations and Marketing Manager, and Richard White – Chair of the ITWG.

These presentations introduced the extensive programme of free events and support that will be available to transport related businesses through the Catalyst and ITWG, alongside the Clean Futures Accelerator opportunities that exist for applicants to Cohort 2 of the programme.

Solar powered cellular gateways collate sensor data and send it to a cloud-based data portal
Senceive use the facility for training sessions with in-house and external groups

Alexander Weedon, Executive Director of SME Development & Academic Engagement at Connected Places Catapult, said: “Clean Futures represents a joined-up approach by bringing challenge owners together with innovators to create jobs and growth over the longer term.

“The Catalyst is absolutely vital to the sustainability of the Clean Futures programme in the longer run; by extending its reach to help embed a lasting culture of innovation.”

Paul Fairburn, Director, Innovation Ecosystem at Coventry University, said: “The Clean Futures Catalyst is our commitment to using the latest university R&D and industry expertise to support transport businesses to transform their operations for a better, more sustainable future. This initiative not only symbolises our dedication to environmentally friendly practices, but also reflects our vision to strengthen the regional economy.”

Olivia Brown, Operations and Marketing Manager at BCIMO, said: “It was a fantastic day, all the presentations were really informative and interesting and helped to provide the necessary context for what followed in terms of the support on offer.

“I was delighted to present our cog model of innovation and outline how the development of technology is supported through our Clean Futures Catalyst, Accelerator and Commercial Investment Hub activities.

“We received a lot of positive feedback following the event and we look forward to continuing those discussions over the coming weeks and months.

“If you were unable to attend but would like to know more, a pdf of our slides can be downloaded here.”

For more information on the wider Clean Futures programme and the Catalyst, please visit the Connected Places Catapult’s Clean Futures programme page or Coventry University’s Clean Futures microsite.

For more information on BCIMO in general please visit the BCIMO website or contact us to register your interest and be notified when:

  • Upcoming Catalyst events open for registration
  • Applications for the Accelerator’s second cohort open
  • The Commercial Investment Hub launches

The Black Country Innovative Manufacturing Organisation (BCIMO) is a not-for-profit Research and Technology Organisation (RTO) and operator of the Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre (VLRNIC), a unique, world-class centre for rail innovation based in Dudley in the West Midlands.

BCIMO Project Funders

Black Country Innovative Manufacturing Organisation (BCIMO)
Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre
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