Plant & Works Engineering
Aston University wins £1.8m to boost West Midlands low carbon markets
Published:  08 June, 2023

Aston University has announced it is to receive £1.8 million to transform the West Midlands into a powerhouse of low-carbon product development and commercialisation.

The University will be building on its existing research facilities to lead the region’s Biochar CleanTech Accelerator as part of the West Midlands Innovation Accelerator.

The project was set up with the aim to secure export contracts for low carbon products worth over £200 million, to be made by a regional industrial cluster.

It is hoped that the development of a low-carbon business cluster in the West Midlands will open up new domestic and export markets to help rebuild the region’s engineering and manufacturing status.

Biochar, a sustainable form of charcoal, can be used as a soil and plant growth enhancer. It stores carbon in the ground, so there are fewer greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Other products such as oils can be used as low carbon fuels for boilers and engines and the liquid by-product can be used for low carbon weedkiller, fungicide and plant growth.

Aston University’s innovative technology is installed at its urban biochar demonstrator in south Birmingham.

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

Tim Miller, Director of Engagement at EBRI (pictured), said: “This new development has the potential to rebuild product development, engineering and manufacturing in our region.

“The project aims to commercialise knowledge, facilities and the results of long-term university research for the benefit of the environment and our regional economy.

“Using the University’s existing expertise and facilities we have the potential to launch new technology-based opportunities as they emerge and mature,

The Biochar CleanTech Accelerator is part of the West Midlands Innovation Accelerator which was first announced in the government’s 2022 Levelling up White Paper and started this spring. It is funded through a share of a £100m from Innovate UK, to be divided by three regional innovation accelerators over the next two years.

Launched by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) in March 2023, it will target investment on projects enabling new solutions around Medical and Clean Technologies, to further reinforce the region’s position at the frontier of the UK innovation revolution.

The University will also play a key role in two other projects in the West Midlands Innovation Accelerator.