In a day encompassing the second of the Clean Futures Catalyst networking events and the first in a series of ‘Fast Track’ workshops, BCIMO explored the themes of renewable energy and future fuels. 

Following on from the successes of its first networking event on the ‘green’ Valentine’s day mantra of ‘Business Loves The Planet’ and the formal launch of the Clean Futures Catalyst at the STEAMhouse in Birmingham two weeks later, BCIMO hosted the next events in the series at the Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre in Dudley last week.

The morning began with a networking breakfast in the centre’s Auditorium on the broader theme of ‘Power & Energy’. It included discussions on the challenges businesses face in balancing choice and cost with regards to greener energy supply, alongside the opportunities to develop innovative technology to provide solutions.

This was followed by a spotlight talk from Lee Tapping, Managing Director of Halesowen company Maisum Renewable Energy, who deliver transitional projects for local consumers and companies, such as installation of solar panels and electric vehicle chargers. Lee is also a passionate advocate for the longer-term vision of a more sustainable economy, inspired by his two daughters after whom his company is named.

His talk encouraged further conversations on advice and support available for businesses within the region, the impact of government policy and potential forthcoming shifts on decision-making, sources of funding for green innovation and the potential synergies of collaboration between innovators and with organisations such as BCIMO. Once again, the attendees were from a broad spectrum of Black Country businesses, across a variety of sectors including those who already operate within the renewables sector and those who wanted to find out more about challenges and opportunities within the broader regional ‘green’ innovation agenda.

Tram 16's last ever journey on Friday, 14th August 2015.<br />
Photo courtesy of Daniel Cartwright, Enpro Group
Tram 16 next to a replacement Urbos 3 tram at Wolverhampton St George’s.<br />
Photo courtesy of Daniel Cartwright, Enpro Group

After networking, the centre was host to the first of the ‘Fast Track 4…’ workshops, developed collaboratively for the Catalyst programme by Alec Gillham at BCIMO and the team at Coventry University. Each workshop focuses on one of the industry challenges defined within the first year of the Clean Futures Accelerator and is, in turn, linked to a visit to an organisation showcasing best practice.

This month’s challenge was that of ‘Future Fuels’, aptly linking to the best practice visit to Tyseley Energy Park that took place on the 3rd April 2024. On the historic site of Birmingham manufacturer, Webster & Horsfall, the park is now home to a range of innovative projects, including production of low and zero carbon transport fuels, such as hydrogen, electric charging, biogas and bio diesel.

Following introductions to BCIMO and the Clean Futures Programme, the first talk of this workshop, entitled ‘The Future of Hydrogen in Transport’, was delivered by Professor Oliver Curnick of Coventry University who outlined the economic and logistical perspective, including current research projects.

The second talk from Brian Macey, Associate Director at Clean Futures lead partner, Connected Places Catapult, was an experiential perspective entitled ‘Insights from the Decarbonisation of Heavy-Duty Road Vehicles’, highlighting the practical challenges of industry and infrastructural transition to alternative fuels.

The third session of the workshop, ‘Traction Options: Measuring Up the Alternatives’, delivered by Professor Stuart Hillmansen from the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research & Education, focused on future fuels within the rail sector and the progress made to date in ‘greening’ the industry.

For the final talk, Jonathan Brown, Strategic Director at Hypermotive, explored the innovations his company has already made in its first eight years and plans for the future, as ‘Hydrogen: An Opportunity for New Businesses’, including case studies from across transportation.

The next event in the Clean Futures Catalyst is the second of the ‘Fast Track 4…’ workshops, this time with a focus on Light Rail. Full details of the workshop and tickets are now available on Eventbrite.

Also upcoming is the opening of applications for Cohort 2 of the Clean Futures Accelerator on the 30th April 2024, coinciding with an exclusive Cohort 1 demonstration day. Interested regional SMEs are invited to attend upcoming application support events – more information coming soon.

Alec Gillham, Strategic Development Partner at BCIMO and Catalyst lead, said:

“With over 30+ businesses attending the Fast Track 4 Future Fuels workshop attendees were able to take a deep dive into the alternative fuels theme to help understand critical factors affecting the transportation sector transition to clean fuel alternatives. Hydrogen, biofuels, electrification and battery technologies were all considered as appropriate, complimentary and not ‘competitive’ future fuel alternatives in our journey to achieving world leading and ambitious targets for Net 0.

“With input from some of the UKs foremost academic research institutions, world leading businesses and industrial speakers the Catalyst will provide businesses with a unique platform to access market leading knowledge and intelligence on the future direction of travel as the UK heads toward decarbonisation of our transportation network.”

Jonathan Brown of Hypermotive, reflecting on the day on LinkedIn, said:

“Thanks to all at the Black Country Innovative Manufacturing Organisation for the event today. It was great to finally come and see the innovation centre and be invited to present to the Clean Futures programme as an SME growing in the hydrogen sector.”

Sabin Nair of Origin21, also on LinkedIn, said:

“Really great event and it was such a pleasure seeing the innovation in the rail sector. Looking forward to working together in digitising and decarbonising this sector.”

For more information on BCIMO or the Clean Futures Programme please visit the BCIMO website or Contact Us to make an enquiry.

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.

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