European project encourages West Midlands businesses to adopt eco-friendly practices

An EU-funded project has been set up to encourage West Midlands-based organisations in the construction and mobility sectors to eschew environmentally-unfriendly practices and adopt novel ‘green’ technologies and methods.

The Know-Eco project, which is led by Coventry University Enterprises and funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), aims to bring about a change in the way businesses in industries with the highest environmental impact operate by exposing them to innovative, low carbon solutions to standard practices.

Addressing these issues at a regional level is the Know-Eco project’s primary concern, with its initial focus being on enhancing the uptake of ‘eco-innovation’ products and services in the areas where each project partner is based.

The project is part of the broader European DISTRICT+ initiative, which helps different regions on the continent work together to share experience and good practice in the areas of innovation, the knowledge economy, the environment and risk prevention.

Coventry University’s partners on the project include the Lower Silesian Regional Development Agency (DARR) in Wroclaw, Poland; the Tuscany-based Etruria Innovazione SCpA organisation; and the Institute for Structural Policy and Economic Development (isw) in Saxony-Anhalt in the central north east of Germany.

The geographical spread of the partners throughout Europe and the nature of the initiative – encouraging smart and sustainable working practices – means the Know-Eco project aligns itself both to existing and planned policy measures on the continent and to the ambitions of Europe 2020, the EU’s sustainable growth strategy for the coming decade.

In particular, the Know-Eco project aims to play a key role in the delivery of Europe 2020’s vision for increased energy efficiency in buildings by encouraging businesses in the partner regions to replace high carbon, resource-intensive consumption patterns with low carbon, resource-efficient ones.

Coventry University’s Low Impact Buildings Grand Challenge is already engaged in a broad applied research programme into sustainable construction, including exploring behavioural attitudes towards energy efficiency, developing and testing novel building materials and using technology to monitor and control building environments.

The University is leading by example, recently having been awarded the national ‘Green Gown’ award by the Environmental Association of Universities and Colleges (EAUC) for its innovative carbon reduction schemes. Coventry’s new £150m campus redevelopment also features two state-of-the-art buildings each set to achieve BREEAM Excellent status, the highest ‘green’ credential from the world’s foremost environmental assessment and rating system for buildings.

Dr Gideon Maas, director of Coventry University’s Institute of Applied Entrepreneurship and project leader for the Know-Eco programme, said: “Various trends are influencing the world lately, one of which is the focus on eco-orientated activities as a measure against problems such as global warming and pollution.

“This project endeavours to build bridges between policy formulation for eco-orientated activities and support for entrepreneurs implementing these policies. With various international partners involved in this project, examples of best practices can be analysed and adapted for specific regions, thus accelerating the uptake of eco-orientated innovations.”