Marches awarded £10 million for innovation

Nearly £10m of funding has been awarded to organisations in the Marches to develop innovative projects tackling issues as diverse as sustainability, an ageing population and Covid challenges.

Innovate UK approved nearly 30 projects for the funding in 2020/21, with the majority awarded for business-led innovation in response to the global disruption caused by the pandemic.

One of the largest awards made nationally was for a collaborative project led by Veolia, which will result in the development of the UK’s first dedicated recycling line for trays and non food bottles, unlocking the UK tray recycling capability. The project was awarded £34.7m and will take place over 3 years.

The figures have been revealed by the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership’s business support service, the Marches Growth Hub (MGH). The MGH works with Innovate UK to promote funding for research and development projects in Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin and Herefordshire.

LEP Access to Finance champion Paul Kalinauckas said Innovate UK funding was vital to developing and delivering projects which make a real difference to regional economies and communities.

“Nearly 30 different projects secured funding in our region tackling issues such as an ageing society, health and nutrition, waste in manufacturing,  home learning and working during the pandemic and innovation in medtech and healthcare in direct response to the Covid crisis.

“It is fantastic to see not just the innovation being explored in these projects, but also the wider economic, social and environmental challenges which are being addressed.

“This is just one of a huge number of finance programmes and opportunities the Marches LEP and Marches Growth Hub help support which can provide companies with much-needed funding to drive growth.”

Telford software development company Bronze Labs is behind the Tribe Project – which won nearly £50,000 for a collaborative bid to develop technology to support the co-ordination of volunteers and communities during the Covid lockdown.

Richard Howells (pictured), Managing Director of Bronze Labs, said, “Our proposal centred on a digital approach to facilitate the scaling of ‘trusted’ community groups which responded to COVID-19 community demand. The focus was on providing a solution to facilitate coordination, planning and action of broad spectrum community need between voluntary organisations and local government.”

The company developed app technology to categorise and ultimately predict the movement of community ‘need’ across society through use of machine learning. The Tribe Project has used the technology to support and co-ordinate volunteer efforts including reaching vulnerable members of society during the Covid lockdowns.

Other funded projects included:

  • Leominster-based Grove Design, which secured £74,000 to develop a design and prototyping of a clear face mask which allows lip reading for those who are deaf or have hearing loss.
  • Earth Rover, based at the Agri-Epi Centre near Newport, which led a consortium bid for £175,000 to build prototype equipment which will contribute to solving the problem of a shortage of seasonal agricultural labour required to pick crops due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and Brexit. The robots use an AI-powered vision system to select in-spec broccoli and leave crop growing so reducing crop waste.
  • Shrewsbury-based Interactive Opportunities Ltd, which secured £49,000 to scale-up its online platform designed to support learning from home during the pandemic. The project provides a community, support and advice for parents, carers and teachers while making the most of the creative talents of teachers, celebrities and entertainers who are keen to help others.
  • Stok.ly in Hereford which received £74,000 to develop the Stok.ly “community eCommerce” platform – an innovative solution to enable local retailers such as butchers, bakers, cafes, delis and grocers to sell their goods online to local communities from a community website.

Businesses interested in applying for Innovation UK funding can find out more at https://www.marchesgrowthhub.co.uk/support/innovate-uk/

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