Devon Net Zero Innovation Fund

Low Carbon Devon

The Devon Net-Zero Innovation Fund was established to enable Devon companies to access the breadth of academic expertise at the University. The fund supported a broad range of sectors from structural engineers to food manufacturing companies and led to the development of 15 new products / services for the enterprises involved. The fund has also led to a number of further funded collaborations.

Case studies

Restorative seagrass

As climate change is increasing the risk of flooding and erosion of our shorelines, Devon company Resilient Coasts Ltd provides an important service advising on nature-based solutions for coastal management that work in harmony with the environment. 
Resilient Coasts worked with Dr Robert Schindler, a geomorphology researcher based in the University of Plymouth’s Marine Institute. His research has a real-world focus, problem solving for enterprises and communities whose work and lives are intrinsically linked to rivers, lakes, estuaries and glaciers.
Together, they worked on a comprehensive analysis of research into seagrass restoration as a natural solution for protecting shorelines. The depth of knowledge created a new theme within Resilient Coasts’ consultancy service, enabling them to pass on evidence-based guidance to their clients. It was hoped this comprehensive research will help to increase seagrass habitats with their huge potential for carbon sequestration and benefits for shores and coastlines. 
staff photograph Dr Robert Schindler
Dr Robert Schindler

Recovery of harmful anaesthetic gases from the atmosphere

Connecting the chemistry lab with business, Low Carbon Devon supported research into the capture of harmful anaesthetic gases exhaled by patients during surgery. The captured gas can be recycled and purified, saving it from being released into the atmosphere and resulting in the creation of a reduced carbon product that can be resold.
In recent years, attention has turned toward the impact of the potent greenhouse gases in anaesthetic agents. Currently, these gases alone are responsible for around 2% of all NHS emissions – using a bottle of desflurane has an equivalent global warming impact as burning 440kg of coal.
SageTech Medical Ltd is a Paignton-based technology company with expertise in the fields of medicine, scientific research and engineering. The company successfully applied for the Devon Net Zero Innovation Fund to use the University of Plymouth’s expertise to test the absorptive material they use to recover anaesthetic gases.
The research – overseen by Dr Lee Durndell– will be analysed to see how it could be adapted to capture more gases over its lifetime.
Devon Net Zero Innovation Fund logo

Analysis of Devon soils for suitability in the construction of cob buildings

The Low Carbon Devon project proudly helped Devon business Barry Honeysett Consulting Structural & Civil Engineers to analyse Devon soils for suitability in the construction of cob buildings.
Following their application to the Devon Net Zero Innovation Fund, they were linked with expertise within the University of Plymouth to undertake structural analysis of subsoil and fibre mixes. This information was used to enable the company to map Devon’s potential earth building hotspots, identifying the best locations in which to build cob buildings.
Constructing buildings with cob has traditionally been used in Devon for centuries and today is it recognised as an ultra-low carbon building technique. This project allowed Barry Honeysett to advise contractors and building professionals alike on where to locate the best areas to build with local subsoil.
University of Plymouth’s Professor Steve Goodhew explains that “currently a new soil analysis needs to be undertaken for any new earth buildings built in Devon. By collating information on soil samples and their suitability for cob buildings, this project could help to accelerate the growth of this ultra-low carbon material”.
Samples of materials used for cob buildings.

Climate change and creative citizens

A cultural hub and centre for ethical, sustainable business was developed in Plymouth with support from Low Carbon Devon. Grow Plymouth’s city centre building is home to art studios and event space which will be used to bring the community together to communicate a deeper understanding of sustainability issues in a way that is accessible, people-centred and socio-culturally aware.
While concern about climate change continues to grow, research shows significant and alarming gaps in our understanding of the relevant issues. Educating ourselves and increasing climate and environmental literacy is recognised as an essential component in addressing the climate crisis.
Grow Plymouth successfully applied for the Devon Net Zero Innovation Fund; the funding enabled the enterprise to develop a new sustainable service linking academics with the community to support education around key net zero issues.
The early stages of the project – overseen by Professor Robert Brown– included community events to open dialogue with businesses and the wider public as well as meetings with community partners whose collaboration will help Grow Plymouth to become a flagship venue for communicating sustainability issues.
Climate change reconsidered infographic

Sustainable oat milk in Devon

A collaboration aimed to improve the sustainability and quality of plant-based drinks. ReRooted Organic produces dairy alternatives and aims to source its ingredients and technology close to home. 
As part of the Devon Net Zero Innovation Fund, researchers at the University of Plymouth, evaluated the use of local organic crops and harnessing the ability of enzymes to digest the starch and proteins with ReRooted Organic.
ReRooted, based in Totnes, started as a side project making plant milks for a local zero waste shop and now supplies a range of organic plant milks nationwide.
The research project evaluated different ways to prepare ingredients for oat milks based on ethical, technological and cost feasibility considerations. The ingredients were be analysed using specialist resources as well as testing in a sensory evaluation panel by trained experts and tested by baristas and consumers.
The research was be overseen by Dr Victor Kuri who is a food scientist specialising in quality and innovation and has previously worked on developing alternative food products with fortified ingredients from plants and the reuse of co-products in food production.
Dr Victor Kuri

Making use of waste

The Low Carbon Devon project proudly helped Devon business Bell & Loxton Innovations Ltd to develop new uses for agricultural and food processing by-products. By connecting them with expertise within the University of Plymouth, we supported them in the development of nutritional and therapeutic products from these abundant waste products, thereby reducing carbon emissions and revolutionising the agri-food circular economy.
Bell & Loxton is a family business run from a working farm and food-oil manufacturer in South Devon. Through their circular-economy spin-out company they applied for the Devon Net Zero Innovation Fund and benefitted from the expertise of Dr Vikram Sharma and the University’s Proteomics Core Laboratory, who analysed compositions for different end uses. The original ingredients came from waste products from farmers’ normal crop rotations, with the aim to be developed into high value bio-renewables that have widespread applications across the nutrition, personal care and pharma sectors. 
Vikram Sharma
Dr Vikram Sharma

Innovative packaging solutions

The Low Carbon Devon project ran an exciting project with Devon business Prestige Packaging to understand how they can become a carbon-neutral supplier of environmentally sensitive packaging products. 
Following their application to the Devon Net Zero Innovation Fund, we linked the company with expertise within the University to assist with identifying new market opportunities and designing innovative and disruptive packaging solutions.
Prestige Packaging has been supplying print and packaging for over 25 years from their factory in Plympton, Devon. They are already finding ways to minimise their environmental impact by sourcing boxboard from FSC® certified wood products and polyester films that are 100% recyclable. 
In 2020, they were awarded the President's Special Award for Pandemic Service from the Royal Academy of Engineering for their development of a recyclable face shield, in collaboration with the University of Plymouth’s Dr Antony Robotham.
Mike Corran, Managing Director of Prestige
Packaging, with Dr Antony Robotham (Credit: Jude Palmer/Royal Academy of Engineering)
This collaboration combined the expertise of Dr Anthony Robotham, Associate Professor in Mechanical Engineering, with Research Assistants working in the fields of the Circular Economy and Marketing. Masters Design students also helped with the later design stages of the project.