Adapt is bridging the gap for Norfolk’s green firms

Liliya Serazetdinova, centre, programme manager for InCrops who support low carbon companies for the Adapt Group, who has been working with the University of Palermo, which involved client Haley Farley, left, of Uniborder. With them is John French, CEO Adapt Group, and some of the low carbon goods. Picture: Denise Bradley Liliya Serazetdinova, centre, programme manager for InCrops who support low carbon companies for the Adapt Group, who has been working with the University of Palermo, which involved client Haley Farley, left, of Uniborder. With them is John French, CEO Adapt Group, and some of the low carbon goods. Picture: Denise Bradley

Friday, July 25, 2014
1:30 PM

Going green maybe more of an aspiration than a reality for many local firms. But Ben Woods has met one organisation that is helping companies – both large and small – to reach for a low carbon future.

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Dr Liliya Serazetdinova believes going green makes good business sense.

As programme manager for the InCrops Enterprise Hub, she has helped nurture 300 sustainable businesses across the region, creating 100 jobs and pioneering 80 new low carbon products.

But despite the success stories, turning a company into a carbon-fighter is not as easy as it sounds.

Some firms fear that ‘going green’ will jar with the day-to-day running of their business – or force them to change the way they work altogether.

Meanwhile, further down the chain, entrepreneurs face the equally daunting task of navigating uncharted territory when trying to bring biorenewable products to market.

Dr Serazetdinova realises the challenges. She understands that bridges need to be built to ensure cutting-edge research is translated into ideas that spark new businesses.

To smooth this transition, InCrops is working to create long-lasting partnerships between research institutions, industry and small businesses to boost innovation.

Part of this strategy was put in action earlier this month when the Adapt Low Carbon Group – which oversees InCrops– held an event in Italy to bring together international experts with fledgling firms from across East Anglia.

Focusing on ways to enter global markets, the new biorenewable businesses met with leading figures from the University of Palermo in Sicily; Fraunhofer Institute of Mechanics of Materials from Germany; Bangor Biocomposites Centre from Wales and the University of Southampton.

One company on the trip was Norwich-based Uniborder that is looking to create a biobased product to replace the fossil fuel plastic it uses for landscape gardening.

Hayley Farley – who came with the concept of the business – needs about £80,000 to get the firm up and running, and is looking at markets both locally and abroad.

Although many start-up firms would focus on securing a slice of the domestic market first, Dr Serazetdinova believes entrepreneurs should not be afraid to think global when it comes to launching a business

“The UK has a science capability second only to the US but it falls short on translating scientific innovative ideas into marketable products and services,” she said. “This is often due to the lack of funding or infrastructure supporting interactions between industry and academia.

“We’re helping to close this gap in the East of England by enabling collaborations between companies and research experts.

“The UK is serious about creating a ‘knowledge-economy’, so it’s vital to continue to invest in research excellence. We’re making headway by creating opportunities like these, which are vital to securing jobs and our economy.”

“We want to make sure that companies in East Anglia have access to these markets – and making sure it is not just the domestic market,” she added.

“You have look internationally because of the supply chain capability. Just because you are a small business, it doesn’t mean your market has to be here.”

Formed in 2008, InCrops – based with the Adapt Low Carbon Group at the Norwich Research Park – helps small firms with product development and prototyping. It was one of the first projects in the East of England to receive funding from the European Regional Development Fund.

To help businesses, It offers innovation vouchers, giving small firms the financial power to embark on research projects by allowing them to reclaim 40pc of their costs when working with private and public research organisations.

But while InCrops remains regionally focused, efforts are also being made elsewhere in the group to help companies outside of East Anglia.

Adapt Commercial wants to support medium-sized companies facing pressure from consumers to drive down their carbon footprint.

It has already helped businesses in food manufacturing, personal care and cosmetics to improve their environmental impact.

But Dr Serazetdinova is equally keen to work with companies that are putting strain on the natural environment, either by producing lots of waste or using large quantities of water.

Adapt Commercial is currently close to finalising a deal to help a company reduce its consumption of palm oil. This product, a type of vegetable oil, is a key ingredient in processed foods, soap products and candles, but it leaves a devastating impact on rainforests in South East Asia when cultivated.

To transform an organisation into a low carbon business can be a painful process, that takes months of analysis and probes deep into the supply chain.

But at their best, these methods can have a far-reaching impact that will ensure the survival of the environment for generations to come.

Do you have a business story worth sharing with the Eastern Daily Press? 
Contact business writer Ben Woods on 01603 772426 or email ben.woods@archant.co.uk

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