An Aston University-led consortium has secured £4.095m in funding from the West Midlands Combined Authority’s (WMCA) UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) to support businesses in the West Midlands to reduce their environmental impact and rising energy costs.
The West Midlands (WM) Decarbonisation Net Zero Programme aims to provide information, expert advice and conduct energy audits to support SMEs to decarbonise and save money for their business. This programme is part of the wider Business Growth West Midlands support activity funded through the UKSPF.
Aston University experts led by Prasanta Dey, Professor of Operations and Information Management, will work with Black Country Industrial Cluster (BCIC) and Coventry City Council on the project.
The service involves actively engaging with businesses in Birmingham and Solihull, the Black Country and Coventry. Experts will conduct comprehensive energy and resource efficiency audits which will be documented in a detailed report, outlining findings and providing personalised recommendations for carbon reduction. Additionally, businesses can attend advice sessions to gain in-depth knowledge about the programme benefits and ask questions.
Businesses that get an energy audit are then eligible to apply for Net Zero grants to part-fund implementation of the changes proposed. A total of £4.5m in Net Zero grants are available through the seven West Midlands local authorities.
Professor Aleks Subic, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Aston University, said: “Aston University is leading the charge towards a greener future. We’re driving change in the West Midlands business landscape with this major, transformational decarbonisation project. Through it, we’re empowering businesses across the West Midlands region to cut costs while cutting carbon. A key focus of the University’s 2030 strategy is tackling the challenge of climate change.
“Whole system transformation must take place at micro and macro levels, within individual organisations, locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. This major decarbonization project will enable us to actively support businesses in adopting sustainable practices and business models to achieve net zero emissions.”
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA Chair, commented: “High energy costs have hit some of our region’s businesses hard, so the offer of expert advice and financial support to help them decarbonise and save money could not come at a better time. Not only will the support being offered by Aston University help businesses reduce their running costs, it also supports our #WM2041 net zero commitment as we seek to work together to tackle the climate emergency. By taking the right actions, we can drive clean growth and enhance business resilience in the months and years ahead — placing the West Midlands at the heart of the coming Green Industrial Revolution.”
Councillor Jim O’Boyle, Cabinet Member for Jobs, Regeneration and Climate Change at Coventry City Council, said: “This work with local small businesses will be really important as there no doubt it’s been a very challenging period for many businesses at the moment. Our expert team has been supporting local businesses for a number of years, but now more than ever its vital that we do all we can to enable companies to act on carbon reduction and at the same time save money on energy costs. This work also plays a part in helping businesses to keep people in a job so I’m pleased that we can commit to offering this support over the next two years.”
Matthew Rhodes, Director of BCIC, added: “We’re delighted to be working with Aston University on delivering this project. Securing the funding for this has been a very long road and we’re being entrusted with pilot funding for the whole of the UK. That we’re even able to offer this programme — which is unique to the West Midlands — is a testament to the efforts of the whole Repowering the Black Country Team as well as Aston University and Coventry City Council, and we’re delighted to be part of such a strong and experienced team.
“We’re looking forward to helping businesses across the Black Country over the next 18 months, and hopefully helping to reduce the impact on our businesses of any repetition of the energy cost crisis of last winter.”
Find out more about the project here.