Experts at Focus Consultants are teaming up with Aston University to evaluate the Smarterials programme – a project to help promote and advance the use of functional materials in manufacturing.

Funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the project began in September 2018 and runs until July 2021, and provides innovation aid for small and medium-sized enterprises across Greater Birmingham and Solihull, and Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) areas.

Focus has been appointed by Aston University to evaluate the results of the £1.4 million investment in the Smarterials programme.

It is the second evaluation contract awarded to Focus Consultants by Aston University, and follows an independent assessment and evaluation of the work undertaken by the ERDF-funded Energy and Bioproducts Research Institute (EBRI) at the university, completed last year.

Partner at Focus Consultants, Heather Frecklington, who heads the Economic Development Team, said: “Aston University is using its expertise in functional materials, as well as its close links with the business community, to help promote and advance the use of functional materials in the region through the Smarterials programme. There are over 600 businesses that could potentially benefit from the project.

“We are very pleased to have been appointed to now evaluate the Smarterials programme. Focus Consultants has a proven track record of undertaking similar successful ERDF evaluations, most recently for Aston University’s Energy and Bioproducts Research Institute (EBRI) and the East Midlands Food and Drink Forum. This evaluation will focus on the impact that the project has had on the local economy and the lessons to be learnt for the future.”

Nottingham-based Focus Consultants, which also has offices in London, Leicester, and Newark, specialises in a range of disciplines, including securing funding for projects, economic impact assessments, regeneration strategies, research and feasibility strategies.

This latest appointment from Aston University is now under way, with Focus Consultants due to prepare a number of interim reports and summative assessments.

The Smarterials project offers bespoke packages to individual companies, helping them to adopt current technologies. Dedicated research and development, design and fabrication of new functional materials, and ‘end product’ testing is all featured as part of Aston University’s offer, as well as networking events, themed workshops, business exhibitions, short-term assists and long-term collaborations.

The project turns the spotlight on functional materials, or ‘Smarterials’, which are those that can do something in their own right. Vital to the future of advanced manufacturing, the advantages of using functional materials are already being realised in South East Asia, and Aston University wants to ensure that manufacturers and bioscience organisations in the West Midlands also gain the benefits of such technology.

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