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BCIMO celebrates first year of Clean Futures Accelerator programme

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Tuesday 30 April marked a landmark day for the Black Country Innovative Manufacturing Organisation (BIMCO), as it held an exclusive ‘Demonstration Day’ event to showcase a range of SME innovations from the first cohort of the Clean Futures Accelerator programme.

The two-year programme, launched in July 2023, is led by Connected Places Catapult and delivered by BCIMO in partnership with Coventry University. It is designed to address key industry challenges through innovation, by accelerating the route to market for SMEs via a package of funding, technical expertise and commercial insight. In essence, it prepares the regional SMEs on the programme to demonstrate their innovations to industry partners and potential investors, the culmination of the project being the live on-site demonstration.

The end of the first year of the Clean Futures Accelerator concluded on 30 April with an exclusive ‘Demonstration Day’ held at the Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre in Dudley, with more than 130 visitors in attendance. Cohort 1 SMEs had the opportunity to showcase their innovations both in the upper Meetings & Events Spaces, and across the Rail Development & Test Site facilities, within a broader programme of activities.

The day began with a welcome from BCIMO’s CEO, Neil Fulton, followed by a talk from Sarah Windrum, future mobility lead at HORIBA MIRA and innovation board member at the West Midlands Combined Authority. It was then the turn of the Cohort 1 SMEs to deliver their ‘pitches’. Each talked about their innovation – all exciting options to contribute to rail and the broader regional transport sectors making real strides forward in their net zero agenda – but also their individual visions for the future, both of their businesses and the impact their innovations can have far beyond the region in addressing global environmental challenges.

Martin Little, strategic business partnerships manager at BCIMO, led a panel session with experts from across both the rail sector and innovation landscape, posing a number of key questions. These encompassed the specific criteria for ‘good innovation’, the role that programmes such as Clean Futures can play in driving it forward, and the challenges the industry faces in harnessing innovation.

Finally, Naomi Arblaster, head of SME Development at BCIMO, and Hannah Fortune, Clean Futures Accelerator programme manager at Connected Places Catapult, presented each of the Cohort 1 SMEs with a plaque, amidst a celebratory photocall and continuous rounds of applause. Hannah then formally launched the second year of the programme, outlining the challenges for Cohort 2 applicants to consider. Naomi closed the event – and the first year – with a reflection on the success of the programme and exciting plans for its future.

Helena Davies, events manager at BCIMO, said: “The Clean Futures Cohort 1 Demonstration Day was a fantastic conclusion of the first intake of the Accelerator programme. As the Events Manager at BCIMO I see lots of different types of events come through the doors, however planning and delivering from start to finish, alongside my colleagues, is not something we do that often. It’s been a complete team effort and a delight to see the event come together. The event showcased the facilities across BCIMO and showed the true potential of what can be delivered on site.”

For more information on the Accelerator, and find out more about the second year opportunity, visit the BCIMO website.

Image credit: BCIMO

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