Manufacturing at the heart of sustainable innovation

Posted on 1 Feb 2021 by The Manufacturer

Simon Edmonds focuses on initiatives receiving support from Innovate UK’s Sustainable Innovation Fund, the National Composites Centre and Driving the Electric Revolution, all projects that are helping to achieve a greener, net zero future.

Nearly 1,200 companies across the UK will share £134m of new Innovate UK investment through its latest dedicated COVID-19 innovation recovery fund. Winners from Innovate UK’s Sustainable Innovation Fund will develop ‘green innovations’ with sustainability at their heart.

“Innovate UK has targeted companies needing to keep their great ideas alive during the current pandemic, who in turn will contribute to revolutions across whole sectors and transform the way people live, work and travel.”

Each successful company will receive up to £175,000 to accelerate commercial production of their innovative products and services. For a smaller number, their award is the first phase of a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition that addresses specific net zero and clean growth challenges as part of the government’s pledge to tackle climate change.

There were many manufacturing winners among the nearly 1,200 recipients across the UK. An innovative 3D printing firm has secured £100,000 in funding to build an automated online platform that will drastically cut the time it takes for architects to create physical models from their digital 3D designs.

Fixie has been given funding to develop an automated online platform that will simplify the architectural 3D printing process IMAGE: Mark Buchanan at

Fixie has been given funding to develop an automated online platform that will simplify the architectural 3D printing process IMAGE: Mark Buchanan at

Fixie’s platform simplifies the architectural 3D printing process by eliminating the need for arduous remodelling which can currently take days to convert architects’ designs to a 3D printable version.

The company, which focuses on the architecture sector, will be supported by the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult.

For more information please see InnovateUKJan01

Composites projects awarded

Also awarded funding were three projects involving the National Composites Centre (NCC), part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, to investigate and validate ways to help achieve a net zero future.

The funding will enable the research and development centre to work with a variety of SMEs, focusing not only on how composite materials can be best utilised within the final products but also, crucially, on the environmental impact of the materials being used and how this can be mitigated.

The three projects are:

  • The Novel Composite E-Bike project sees the NCC partner with mountain bike manufacturer, Starling Cycles, and Composite Braiding, leaders in thermoplastic composite braiding technology. The project will develop the first continuous thermoplastic fibre e-bike in the world, using thermoplastic composite braiding to create the A-frame. Thermoplastics allow the resin to be stripped from the fibres at end-of-life, meaning the product will be more recyclable, as well as more easily repairable during its lifetime. The aim is for the Novel Composite E-Bike to be manufactured and sold around the world, creating a net zero transport option for millions of people.
  • Working alongside Cecence and ELG Carbon Fibre on the Sustainable Aero Seat Back project, the NCC will be collaborating on redesigning the structural entity of an aeroplane seat, replacing as much virgin carbon fibre as possible with recycled materials while maintaining structural performance to meet the strenuous certification requirements.

    Funding has been secured through the National Composites Centre to retrofit roof panels to provide greener energy to thousands of homesFunding has been secured through the National Composites Centre to retrofit roof panels to provide greener energy to thousands of homes.

  • A consortium working on how to make retrofit roof panes more efficient at generating power by incorporating solar power and a water heating process underneath the panel. If successful, it is anticipated that over 30,000 houses in the UK will be retrofitted with the panels, providing thousands of families around the country with greener energy, eliminating fuel poverty and creating thousands of new jobs.

Driving the electric revolution

“More than 20 innovative projects aiming to reduce carbon emissions in the transport, energy and industrial sectors are to share nearly £6m in funding.”

The funding comes from Driving the Electric Revolution, part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund delivered by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

This investment into the power electronics, machines and drives (PEMD) supply chain is vital to making sure that the UK reaches net zero. Some or all these technologies can be found in everyday electrical items. From mobile phones to hairdryers and the motors in electric vehicles and trains, PEMD makes them work. As such, for crucial technologies across sectors from transport to energy to agriculture, net zero will not be possible without advances in PEMD.

The projects, involving innovative start-ups, universities and some of Britain’s biggest companies, will receive funding from the Driving the Electric Revolution challenge. The money will help grow the UK’s PEMD supply chain and increase manufacturing capability to allow future improvements in productivity, quality, capacity or efficiency.

For a full list of winners please see InnovateUKJan02

Simon Edmonds is Innovate UK’s Deputy Executive Chair and Chief Business Officer

All feedback gratefully received at government/people/ simon-edmonds and on Twitter @SJSEdmonds

* Header image courtesy of Shutterstock