University of Hertfordshire (UK) University of Hertfordshire Accelerator Programme stimulates sustainable innovation

University of Hertfordshire accelerates growth of ten sustainable SMEs

The recently completed Herts Sustainability Accelerator Programme, run by the University of Hertfordshire has seen ten small businesses receiving support to grow, innovate and make a tangible environmental impact, with each receiving a tailored package of support worth around £25k per business.

The programme launched in March 2022, and was run in partnership with Hertfordshire Growth Hub, with the shared aim of unlocking the potential of small businesses to make a positive contribution to the UK’s net zero plans. Each business was given one to one mentoring, training, and specialist technical, commercial, and marketing support, as well as access to a varied group workshop programme, over an intensive six- month period. Each company also received a cash grant and prototyping support to help bring their products and ideas to fruition.

The ten businesses who took part in the programme are:

  • Design Abled Ltd: A company which developed a completely recyclable and sustainable version of its clear surgical face mask to support those with a hearing impairment with lip reading.
  • GO design services: A model design and production business which uses only sustainable materials – a first in a typically very waste heavy industry. They have since been commissioned to create animal models for a local zoo using rubbish.
  • Entoplast: A biomaterials start up which has been able to refine a sustainable process for producing biopolymers from insects. This is being applied in multiple markets as a plastic substitute.
  • Bambuu Brush: A mission-driven business producing high-quality sustainable products including toothbrushes, utensils, straws, and bags. They also deliver educational workshops to raise awareness about environmental issues. They’ve been supported by the Accelerator to launch a new consultancy service to help organisations tackle plastic pollution
  • Fermenti Foods: An artisan food start-up focused on functional, organic, fermented foods that promote health and wellness, with great flavours and high nutrient value. The company has been working on launching their first product with the help of the Accelerator
  • House of Heever: A technology manufacturer that provide audio and visual kit for home broadcasting and content creation. They have been supported through the Accelerator to progress their GroHelper product, a growing solution for edible plants in urban spaces.
  • Indigo Tree: An award-winning digital marketing agency. They’ve been supported via the Accelerator to explore a methodology for calculating the digital footprints of websites.
  • Mama Bamboo: An established eco nappies and wipes manufacturer which uses bamboo and compostable bioplastic in its products. The Accelerator has supported the business to progress plans to collect and recycle their products; closing the loop and optimising positive environmental impact.
  • Tenschul: An industrial machinery company which had already prototyped a dispensing technology to reduce single use plastic waste of FMCG products. The Accelerator has helped them explore commercial viability of this technology and routes to market
  • Zero London: A zero waste and low carbon clothing manufacturer and online retailer. The company produce men’s clothing using 20% less raw material than conventional manufacturing. They’ve received support from the Accelerator to refine their brand and commercial proposition, as well as exploring a service element to their offer

Yanina Aubrey, Head of Business Growth and Entrepreneurship at the University of Hertfordshire said. “The Accelerator programme has drawn from over 20 areas of expertise from within the University, from Chemical Engineering to Computer Modelling, Plant Science, and Sustainable Product Design, as well as numerous sector, commercial and technical experts; We had 51 people supporting the 10 participating companies.

“The cost for an SME to take forward a Research and Development (R&D) project is enormous, very high risk and time-consuming. This is where research organisations such as the University of Hertfordshire have a key role to play, enabling SMEs the opportunity to innovate, by providing access to a portfolio of expertise, technical know-how and other resources.”

A showcase event was hosted in September, to mark the conclusion of the Sustainability Accelerator programme. All participating businesses were invited to share their progress and products, with key regional stakeholders in attendance.

Grace Overington, Founder of GO Design and one of the ten businesses who took part in the programme said of the support she received, “I am a trained artist, but am new to running a business, so really appreciate the help I’ve received. The benefits of partnering with the University have been significant, not just in terms of networking and making new connections, but for the credibility it gives me as a start-up. It has helped my reputation and positively contributed towards the future growth of my business.”