Manufacturers scoop eco innovation awards following groundbreaking R&D programme


Eco-I North West honours business and university collaborations tackling climate change

Three manufacturers have scooped awards for eco innovations developed as part of a groundbreaking R&D programme.

Relic Plastic CIC, based in Heysham, ELE Advanced Technologies, based in Colne, and City Centre Commercials, based in Liverpool, were recognised for their climate change action at the Eco Innovation awards, organised by Eco-I North West (Eco-I NW), a research and development programme to create new sustainable technologies, products and services.

The programme is delivered by a consortium of universities – Lancaster, Central Lancashire, Cumbria, Liverpool, Liverpool John Moores and Manchester Metropolitan – and will have given more than 330 SMEs access to the extensive knowledge base, cutting-edge research facilities, built new networks to drive innovation, and supported the development of innovative solutions which will save 3,850 tonnes of CO2.

Relic Plastic CIC, based in Heysham, who manufacture high-quality, handmade products such as shower combs, knife handles and furniture using post-consumer plastics such as DVD cases, bottle tops, sweet tubs, and industrial plastic waste.

Working with University of Central Lancashire and Lancaster University it has been able to increase its partnership with the community including 50 businesses, schools and community groups to reduce plastic waste in landfills and increase awareness and sustainable action.

Commenting on winning the ‘Community champion’ award, Kiki Callihan and Martin Paley, co-directors, said: “Working closely with the university has been a very valuable experience for our organisation. As a small organisation we have limited resources to devote to research, so the support provided by Central Lancashire and Lancaster universities over the last few years has been fantastic. 

“The fact that this award recognises the partnerships we have forged in our community is very important to us. We couldn’t have done it without their help to make an impact on plastic waste and using it as a resource.”

The ‘Most impactful undergraduate’ award went to Lee Ollerenshaw from the University of Central Lancashire, who worked with ELE Advanced Technologies, a high precision parts manufacturer based in Colne. The project focussed on improving resource optimisation and waste management and supported the company’s net zero roadmap.

Lee said: “It was a fantastic experience working with ELE to take steps to reduce their carbon footprint. Being able to apply my research in a real world setting and see success was extremely rewarding and precisely what Eco-I NW set out to achieve.”

Manesh Pandya, CEO of ELE, said: “ELE has embarked upon a journey to net zero with the objective of becoming carbon neutral in Scope 1 and 80% reduction in carbon emissions in Scope 2 within the next 12 months. Lee’s project has helped in understanding our challenges and steps we need to take to meet our objectives.

“Industries like ELE are only going to be successful in their ESG journey by developing close collaborative relationships with academia. We are very fortunate to have linked up with UCLan, Eco-I North West, and in particular with Lee on this project.”

The ‘Best concept in development’ award went to City Centre Commercials, based in Liverpool, who worked with Liverpool John Moores University to manufacture and test its novel GeoBrick, a clay-free unfired brick which is made from recycled aggregate from construction, demolition, and excavation waste.

Eco-I NW, which is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), was led by the Centre for Global Eco-Innovation (CGE) team at Lancaster University.

Commenting on the awards, Dr Andy Pickard, manager of the CGE, said: “Eco-I North West has been an incredibly successful programme which has showcased what can be achieved via collaborative research between academia and business.

“These awards have been a celebration of the impressive work by our six regional university partners, talented undergraduates and postgraduates, and hundreds of small and medium sized businesses.”

“Over the last three years we have created a melting pot of disruptive innovation, driven by collaboration which will continue long into the future. But if we are going to truly achieve the rapid transition to more sustainable economies and societies in the face of the climate emergency, we need to grow our network of collaborators. I would encourage businesses to connect with this region’s universities and start the conversation.”