Pioneering Shropshire businesses looking to help drive the county’s green revolution were today urged to take advantage of free research and testing.

Experts at the Centre for Research into Environmental Science and Technology (CREST) – based at University Centre Shrewsbury – can provide research and innovation support to SMEs across the county working on green and sustainable innovations.

Marches Local Enterprise Partnership small business champion Dave Courteen said the scheme could play a vital part in helping the drive to Net Zero – as well as offering crucial help to establish new businesses and products.

“This is an excellent example of the support that the Marches LEP and its business support service, the Marches Growth Hub, can help businesses access,” said Dave.

“Part funded by the European Regional Development Fund, CREST is set up to help bring new environmentally-responsible businesses, products, processes or services to market by offering free research and testing support during the development process.

“It is available to businesses in both Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin to help develop and test innovative developments which relate to the Environmental Science and Technology sector.”

Examples of businesses which have benefitted from CREST support include:

Caradoc Charcoal: The Leebotwood-based company wanted to make commercial use of sawdust and biochar produced as a by-product of its charcoal production to reduce waste. CREST completed detailed research and the company is now selling biochar as a soil improver whilst further trials are continuing to explore if the addition of biochar has an impact on milk yield/quality and cow/calf health.

Longmynd Travel: CREST academic experts completed research into alternative fuels and their suitability to be used either alongside or as a replacement for a standard diesel combustion engine. This included the likely costs associated with the switch over to these alternative fuels. They completed further research on emerging policy and infrastructure projects related to refuelling, which will be relevant to coach transport.

Shrewsbury Cup: The founders of Shrewsbury Cup, Sophie Peach and Alison Thomas, wanted to help reduce the amount of cups thrown away every day and came up with the idea of a reusable coffee cup available at point of sale on a £1 deposit return basis. CREST supported with market research to analyse consumer behaviour patterns, and pitch development for Shrewsbury BID.

Project manager Kat Bevan said: “Our work has demonstrated the huge number of SMEs located in the region who are doing fantastic things in the drive to Net Zero. People have come to us with just the outline of an idea, and we have worked with them to advise how they could turn it into a commodity.

“Alternatively, businesses already have a product and we have helped develop it or introduced them to useful contacts at our professional and business networks. We are partnered with the ARLI project at University of Birmingham, which allows us to further our offer – they conduct research into reusing waste streams and alternative raw materials; really useful for the manufacturing industry.”

Marches LEP chief executive Rachel Laver added: “The success of these businesses, and many others which CREST has helped support, shows the value that their experts can bring.

“I would urge any business working to help develop green and environmentally-friendly products or processes to contact the Marches Growth Hub to see how they can help them tap into this excellent support.”

The fully-funded support includes research collaborations, bringing products to market, feasibility and testing, lab facilities on site, masterclasses and workshops.

It can include initial short term business support, support from Crest’s business development managers, access to a team of academic experts and state-of-the-art laboratory and opportunities to involve students in research projects.

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