Clean Futures Accelerator

Applications are now open until 9 June

Apply now

Calling all West Midlands innovators. Apply to the Clean Futures Accelerator and receive up to £50K to push the boundaries of your technology.

About the Clean Futures Accelerator

The West Midlands has huge potential to drive jobs and growth through harnessing the power of innovation. As identified in the West Midlands Plan for Growth, the region is the centre for key growth clusters for advanced manufacturing and home to the ‘Green Industrial Revolution’.

Clean Futures is supporting the West Midlands’ transport sector as it transitions away from fossil fuels towards clean tech and driving economic growth in the region by accelerating the route to market for SMEs in the sector. The programme is being led by Connected Places Catapult alongside partners: the Black Country Innovative Manufacturing Organisation, Coventry University and Coventry University Services Limited.

Now in its second year, 20 SMEs will be selected to join a 6-month, challenge-led accelerator where they will receive up to £50K to trial their solution which must be matched in-kind (e.g. labour time / materials.) The challenges in the accelerator are built around rail and automotive manufacturing, along with related supply chains. The accelerator also provides bespoke technical and commercial support as well as networking and showcasing events to connect the SMEs with industry and financial partners.

The accelerator challenges and eligibility criteria can be found below.

Application Support Webinar

Connected Places Catapult hosted an Application Support Webinar to give applicants the opportunity to find out more about the programme offering, challenges, the application process, scoring criteria and the assessment process. There was also a live Q&A for prospective applicants to ask any further questions or check their eligibility.

Key Dates

Programme Challenges

The Clean Futures Accelerator invites applications promoting innovative solutions that could address three specific challenge areas. In addition, applicants can apply for the programme under the open challenge. To be considered for the Clean Futures Accelerator, your technology, solution, product, or service should correspond with at least one of these challenge areas (further details provided below). These challenges are chosen to correspond with the West Midlands 2041 plan for the years 2021 to 2026, which aims for a regional goal of Net Zero by 2041.

Challenge 1 | Clean and Efficient Vehicle Manufacturing and Assembly

The focus areas of this challenge are as follows.

  • Minimising scope 3 emissions in the production of sustainable vehicles
  • Improving the integration of sustainable vehicles into the circular economy
  • Addressing a major barrier in the adoption of clean transport technologies: the cost of acquisition and operation.

By integrating sustainability with affordability, we aim to bolster the public’s inclination towards choosing eco-friendly transportation options. Currently, the West Midlands is home to over 3 million cars, with projections indicating an increase to 4 million by 2030. The region witnessed a 50% growth in electric vehicle (EV) adoption from 2021 to 2022.

Under this challenge, we are inviting applicants to propose innovations in the manufacturing processes of electric vehicles (EVs), ranging from micro-mobility solutions and traditional road vehicles to public transport and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs). We are also encouraging applications to improve repurposing, recycling and second life of EV components, such as batteries. In addition, this challenge will facilitate the transition of traditional manufacturing and supply chains in the West Midlands towards the electric vehicle sector. Particularly, companies engaged in the production of components for conventional transportation systems are well-positioned to tackle this challenge by adapting their processes, or by opting for alternative materials or components.

More info

Example innovation areas may include:

  • Innovations aiming to reduce waste in manufacturing and assembly processes, including by optimising energy efficiency or reducing waste.
  • Innovations aiming to increase the sustainability of producing materials used for vehicles, such as steel, iron and mineral products and/or chemicals.
  • Innovations aiming to optimise or increase the sustainability of industrial heating; including through retrofit.
  • The production of components for traditional vehicles which could be adapted to EVs.
  • Use of alternative materials which are more sustainable or cost-effective.
  • Lightweighting solutions or components for EVs.
  • Adaption of traditional vehicle components for EVs, or manufacturing these components in a way which will become more cost effective than existing solutions at scale.
  • Designing or manufacturing EV components more efficiently (in terms of cost and/or emissions).
  • Solutions to improve in-life serviceability of battery packs, even in cases where a single cell fails.
  • Solutions to increase the circular economy in transport, especially reusing or recycling EV batteries.

Challenge 2 | Design or production of cost-effective solutions for a clean transportation infrastructure

Under challenge 2, our objective is to contribute to the development of mass rail-based transit systems that are accessible to everyone, fostering a unified public transport network that is clean, reliable and sustainable. Our aspiration is to reduce air pollution and emissions, enhance connectivity, and position the West Midlands as a leader in mass transit systems, showcasing our innovations on a national scale.

We are seeking rail solutions that either introduce a brand-new infrastructure approach or centre on retrofitting existing infrastructures to make them greener. For new approaches, a key success factor should lie in enhancing affordability, with (for example) an aim to keep construction costs for Very Light Rail below £10 million per kilometre of track. In the case of refurbishment and maintenance of existing infrastructure, sustainability is paramount, and projects should demonstrate a clear pathway towards net zero while presenting a significant commercial opportunity.

More info

Example innovation areas may include:

  • Solutions designed to refurbish or retrofit existing rail infrastructure and increase its sustainability.
  • Solutions designed to increase the sustainability of maintenance of existing rail infrastructure.
  • Reducing destruction and disruption of utilities.
  • Use of sustainable construction materials or methods.
  • Reduction of building and operating infrastructure system requirements, such as onboard signalling, control systems, turnouts, infrastructure required to produce cycling safety schemes, communication systems and/or drainage systems.

Challenge 3 | Future Fuels: Produce, transport, or store alternative fuels such as hydrogen or biofuels

As the transition to electrification progresses, alternative sustainable fuels remain a pertinent choice for specific uses. For instance, in scenarios such as rural transportation and agri-tech, where long distances and sparse charging infrastructure pose challenges, alternative fuels like hydrogen or biofuels become particularly relevant. Furthermore, biofuels offer the added advantage of reducing the impact of waste from crops that would otherwise decompose into methane. We are in search of applicants that are actively involved in the production, transportation, or storage of biofuels or hydrogen within the West Midlands. These efforts should aim to make alternative fuels readily available to end-users, thereby supporting the region’s sustainable energy ecosystem.

More info

Example innovations may include:

  • Local production and transportation to increase the affordability of hydrogen fuels in the West Midlands, as well as reduce waste fuels.
  • Solutions with a focus on electrification challenges, such as fitting them onto larger vehicles and machines (e.g. combine harvesters, HGVs, tractors, refuse trucks and other maintenance vehicles).
  • Solutions to retrofit long-life vehicles (such as HGVs and heavy rail rolling stock) to make them compatible with alternative fuels.
  • Applying alternative fuels for EV charging infrastructure, especially in places where charging infrastructure may be less accessible.
  • Increasing the accessibility of the supply of alternative fuels for consumers and operators, for both on-highway and off-highway vehicles.
  • Efficient storage and transportation of alternative fuels, with reduced waste, space utilisation and lower emissions.
  • Adapting alternative fuels from aircraft and maritime to automotive and rail applications.

Challenge 4 | Open Challenge

The Open Challenge is designed to foster a wide array of sustainable solutions that support our collective vision for a greener future. Beyond the accelerator’s main three challenges, the Clean Futures programme welcomes applications which contribute to sustainable transport and clean manufacturing in general. We encourage applications from innovators dedicated to developing sustainable innovations that will yield significant advantages for the West Midlands, and those currently located or operating within the region will be prioritised. Additionally, proposed solutions and innovations should align closely with the goals of the West Midlands 2041 plan.

What’s on offer to SMEs?

  • Up to £50K in trial funding which must be matched in-kind (e.g. labour time)
  • Collaboration with industry leaders
  • Bespoke coaching and mentoring
  • Support from our consortium of mentors and technical experts
  • Access to technical experts
  • Tailored business support
  • Introductions to investors and customers
  • Access to the Clean Futures Catalyst, bringing together the wider West Midlands transport community
  • Showcase events

Am I eligible for this programme?


  • A UK company address
  • An innovative technology or solution with a Technology Readiness Level of 5 or above
  • Demonstratable alignment to one of the challenges being addressed by this programme
  • The ability to travel for face-to-face meetings and events in the West Midlands
  • Development, testing and/or demonstration of your solution is feasible using the BCIMO or Coventry University test site facilities
  • In-kind match funding contribution of £50k
    (e.g labour, materials)
  • Solution must have demonstrable impact within the West Midlands


  • Existing operational presence in the West Midlands

How to apply?

Please register through the link below. Applications close midnight on 9 June.

Apply now

Point of contact

If you have any questions about the programme and application, please contact:

Harriet Muscroft, Accelerator Programme Manager, Connected Places Catapult.

Hannah Fortune, Accelerator Programme Manager, Connected Places Catapult.


Connected Places Catapult
Connected Places Catapult is the UK’s innovation accelerator for cities, transport, and place leadership. It provides impartial ‘innovation as a service’ for public bodies, businesses, and infrastructure providers to catalyse step-change improvements in the way people live, work and travel. It connects businesses and public sector leaders to cutting-edge research to spark innovation and grow new markets and run technology demonstrators and SME accelerators to scale new solutions that drive growth, spread prosperity, and reduce carbon emissions.

Black Country Innovative Manufacturing Organisation (BCIMO)
The Black Country Innovative Manufacturing Organisation (BCIMO) is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee and the driving force behind a new state-of-the-art research and development facility based in Dudley in the West Midlands. This £32m multi-purpose centre, situated at the heart of the Black Country, offers a host of unique facilities including a Rail Development and Test Site, Engineering Laboratories, Serviced Offices and an Events Suite.

Coventry University
Coventry University is a forward-looking, modern university which provides high-quality education with a focus on applied research. The Clean Futures programme provides SMEs with access to the facilities, skills and experience of the Institute for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering (AME) and Centre for Advanced Low Carbon Propulsion Systems (C-ALPS).
AME, the UK’s first ‘Faculty on the Factory Floor’, supports businesses and education through the use of a combination of academia, industry and innovative research in a factory setting to ensure that participants are industry-ready and future proofed in latest manufacturing technologies; and support businesses in commercialising research to meet industrial challenges.
C-ALPS is a £50m centre that combines academic expertise and state-of-the-art facilities in battery and supercapacitor cells, hydrogen fuel cells, e-motors and drives. Researchers and Clean Futures SMEs can collaborate on next generation electrified propulsion systems for the automotive, aerospace, marine and rail industries.

Coventry University Services Limited
Coventry University Services is part of the Coventry University Group of companies and is where the enterprise, innovation and commercial-related activities that are undertaken across the group of companies is managed. With over 25 years of experience in delivering support to businesses in innovation, growth and internationalisation; CUS delivers over 500 business assists a year, from proof of concept through to commercialisation stages and is a delivery partner in Innovate UK Edge, with around 20 senior business advisors.