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Aston University to take part in West Midlands Innovation Accelerator to spark growth and innovation

  • Aston University has been announced as a partner in the West Midlands Innovation Accelerator
  • The University will lead the Biochar Clean Tech Accelerator and play a key role in two other projects
  • The Accelerator aims to bolster the growth of regional clusters of excellence. 

Aston University has been awarded funding for three projects to be delivered as part of the West Midlands Innovation Accelerator to bolster the region’s innovation and R&D capability and capacity to spark commercial growth and investment.

First announced in the Government’s 2022 Levelling up White Paper, the West Midlands Innovation Accelerator will commence in May 2023, funded through a share of a £100m fund from Innovate UK, to be divided by three regional Innovation Accelerators over the next two years.

The Innovation Accelerator aims to accelerate the region’s engineering research and development, boost inward investment and reinforce the West Midlands’ position at the frontier of the UK innovation revolution by enabling businesses to develop new products, processes and services.

Aston University is leading the Biochar Clean Tech Accelerator, which will build on its existing research facilities to develop growth potential targeting export contracts worth over £200 million of low carbon products produced by a regional industrial cluster.

The project aims to commercialise knowledge, facilities and the results of long-term university research for the benefit of the environment and regional economy, continue the development of a high-capacity low carbon engineering cluster in the West Midlands, open up new domestic and export markets to help rebuild engineering and manufacturing in the region, provide a development pathway from which to launch new technology-based opportunities as they reach maturity and engage staff and students through projects and placements to seed further future commercial innovation.

The project is based on the strengths of the University’s Energy and Bioproducts Research Institute and its Centre for the Circular Economy and Advanced Sustainability.

Aston University is also playing a key role in two other projects:

The West Midlands ‘6D’ Innovation Accelerator (6D-IA), coordinated by the University of Birmingham, which will unite key stakeholders (universities, hospitals, industry and government-funded ‘Catapults’ for manufacturing innovation) to supercharge the region’s ability to accelerate new health and medical technologies, delivering a streamlined programme to help companies navigate “pinch-points” in the process of medical translation.

Digital Innovation Transformative Change (DIATOMIC), led by Connected Places Catapult, the UK’s innovation accelerator for cities, transport and place leadership, in conjunction with Birmingham City Council, Birmingham City University, Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, and University of Birmingham.

DIATOMIC will accelerate place-based innovation in the West Midlands. Harnessing the region's existing international relationships and through a series of targeted initiatives, it will focus on growing the region's clean tech, health tech and med tech markets. 

It will enable civic leaders to set innovation challenges, support local SMEs to respond and benefit the community through the UK's first inclusive innovation hub. It will also promote the use of data to enable better place-based decision making and develop an impact assessment toolkit.

Professor Simon Green, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research at Aston University, said:

“Universities are an essential part of any innovation ecosystem. R&D and innovation in engineering and technology lie at the heart of Aston University’s DNA and we are delighted that we will be playing such a significant role in the West Midlands Innovation Accelerator to help springboard the growth industries of the future.”

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, and chair of the WMCA, said: 

“I’m delighted to see the Innovation Accelerator fund finally land in our region which will unlock a further £150m of private sector co-investment. The funding will inject momentum into the delivery of the West Midlands Plan for Growth which sets out how we will unlock hundreds of thousands of new jobs and be home to major global companies in this decade.

“One of my key mayoral missions is to restore our status as the fastest growing region outside of London - just as we were pre-pandemic. Innovation is central to achieving that mission.

“We’re already a leading region for UK innovation when it comes to automotive and aerospace - with every £1 of Government spending for research and development translating in to £4 of business investment. This latest news will help us to build on our progress to date – with Government’s forthcoming Trailblazer Devolution Deal and proposed programme of Investment Zones set to usher in exciting times ahead.”

Minister of State for Science Research & Innovation at DSIT George Freeman said:

“Through record investment in our UK science, technology and innovation sectors, the Innovation Economy is creating new career opportunities in the campuses, clusters and companies of tomorrow.

“That’s why UKRI is putting clusters at the heart of its £25bn budget up to 2025, and why our £100m Innovation Accelerator programme provides £33m each to three emerging clusters to attract industrial co-investment and become major, globally competitive centres for research and innovation.

“The West Midlands Cluster is becoming a world class hub of R+D in med tech and clean tech.

“I’m delighted that local leaders have come together to use our £33m to launch such exciting programmes with industry and universities in this exciting area.”

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Last Updated: 22-Mar-2023