New fund powers future of low carbon transport sector

The Low Emission Transport Collaborative Projects Fund will offer grants of between £50k and £300k to small and medium sized businesses looking to develop innovative products and services in the area of low carbon vehicles (LCV) – an area that has seen more than £200million of regional investment since 2006.

Supported by the Government’s Regional Growth Fund, the Collaborative Projects Fund will provide grants for joint projects between businesses and knowledge based partners, such as research and development organisations and universities, and is designed to stimulate business growth and generate private sector jobs within the low emission transport sector. 

The new cash source will further propel the national and international reputation of North East England’s LCV industry which has already been recognised as the UK’s first designated Low Carbon Economic Area (LCEA). 

Projects that could benefit include product and technology development in the area of low emission transport and infrastructure; initiatives that aim to increase the capacity of or capability to manufacture a product or deliver a service within the sector; and ventures that are designed to open up new market opportunities for low emission transport.

Dr Colin Herron, managing director of Zero Carbon Futures, the organisation set up to oversee the growth of the LCV industry in North East England, says that the introduction of the new fund is a much-needed one for the sector.  He commented: “When it comes to low carbon transport there is a clear opportunity for the North East to maximise the many assets that it already boasts – an automotive sector and a well established supply chain worth £1 billion that is set to increase over the coming years in line with the demand for low carbon vehicles.  The launch of the Collaborative Projects Fund presents an excellent opportunity for North East businesses, working alongside knowledge based partners, to capitalise on this emerging marketplace.”

The fund will provide a contribution towards the project cost and should be matched with a private sector contribution and is open to organisations looking to create jobs in Tyne & Wear, Northumberland, County Durham or Tees Valley.  The first round of applications closes on Wednesday, 12 December 2012 with a second opportunity for businesses to submit applications in March 2013.

Chris Baylis, Director of Hyperdrive Innovation, a Cramlington firm which provides engineering consultancy, product development and technology transfer services for the low emission vehicles sector, says the launch of the new fund is a welcome move for North East businesses in need of a cash injection to bring their products and services to market. He commented: “This fund represents a much needed opportunity for small businesses like ourselves to support activity and product development that would not otherwise be possible.

“The fund will also prompt businesses to work in collaboration with some of the world-leading research institutes in the region which will bring enormous benefits to both partners. Our experience is that students are able to bring cutting edge thinking to product development projects and in return they are given the opportunity to work on live projects that really open up their way of thinking.”

The Collaborative Projects Fund is managed by Gateshead College and Zero Carbon Futures and administered by New Skills Consulting. Grant funding decisions will be made by an independent investment panel made up of technical experts, business representatives, business networks, academia and funding specialists.

The Low Emission Transport Collaborative Projects Fund is part of a wider Low Emission Transport £6.2m Regional Growth Fund programme designed to boost the growth of the low carbon sector within the region. The Regional Growth Fund (RGF) is a £2.4 billion fund operating across England from 2011 to 2015. It supports projects and programmes with significant potential for economic growth that can create additional, sustainable private sector employment. It aims particularly to help those areas and communities which were dependent on the public sector to make the transition to sustainable private sector-led growth and prosperity.