Lancaster University initiative aims to boost local economies

Lancaster University is piloting two new place-based business innovation initiatives to bring leaders together to come up with solutions to some of society’s biggest challenges.

By Gayle Rouncivell
Thursday, 31st March 2022, 4:55 am

The fully-funded Innovation Catalyst programme has been designed by the globally-recognised Lancaster University Management School and is aimed at dynamic organisations interested in collaborating with academic and industry experts to develop effective long-term solutions around clean growth and secure digitalisation for their industries.

Over a four-month period, the invited business leaders will work on a series of investigative and action-focused ‘Innovation Collaboratories’ to collectively map out their shared geographical challenges and innovation needs.

Student talent will be a key resource to unlocking new ideas, while Innovation Fellows will identify appropriate access to university expertise and facilities to help make the plans a reality.

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Some of the businesses taking part in the Innovation Catalyst in Blackpool.

The groundbreaking project is supported by Lancashire County Council and Blackpool Council, through £448,235 funding from the UK Government's Community Renewal Fund.

Christopher Lowerson, Community Renewal Fund Programme Manager at Lancaster University, said: “The Innovation Catalyst is unlike any programme we have run before. It is not a content-led workshop concept, but is something more unique.

“We create a stimulating environment for carefully-selected business leaders who have the desire to innovate and be at the forefront of creating an exciting future for their region. We let them drive the conversation, but bring relevant stakeholders and other experts in at key points to inject new knowledge, fresh ideas, stimulate thinking, challenge and share the latest research – which helps facilitate and accelerate innovation.”

The two latest Innovation Catalyst programmes are designed and delivered by Lancaster University, in partnership with Blackpool Council and Lancashire County Council. They follow recent successful catalysts by the University's Centre for Global Eco-Innovation and Cumbria Innovations Platform.

The two latest programmes – launching this March – will focus on:

*Bringing together key stakeholders to form a taskforce which can identify challenges and accelerate the development of a net carbon zero data centre in Blackpool, to drive economic growth.

*Building resilient, sustainable innovation ecosystems in the manufacturing and engineering sectors across Lancashire, particularly focusing on challenges posed by the net carbon zero agenda and cyber security threats.

Coun Jane Hugo, cabinet member for climate change at Blackpool Council, said: “It’s important for Blackpool to explore all the potential and exciting opportunities the emerging digital and renewable sectors can bring to the town, especially in terms of new, long-term skilled employment for our local community. It is equally important to recognise and harness the green possibilities wherever we can in any new developing sector, making sustainable choices for the future, that will help us to reduce our carbon footprint and to reach our goal of being carbon neutral by 2030.

“The Innovation Catalyst initiative is an excellent way for like-minded individuals from both public and private sectors to pool their creative resources and ideas in order to find new ways of regeneration for the future and we look forward to seeing the findings.”

County Coun Aidy Riggott, cabinet member for economic development and growth at Lancashire County Council, added: "The Innovation Catalyst being piloted by Lancaster University will bring the public and private sectors together to share their expertise and transform productivity and growth in the local economy.

"This is exactly the kind of project that will support levelling up in the Government's Priority Places of Blackpool, Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale.”