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SHIFT launches new £1.47m innovation programme for London SMEs tackling the climate emergency


● The Future Industries Demonstrator Programme has been created to invest in and support 215 London-based SMEs working to tackle the climate crisis
● First of three open innovation challenges calls for solutions to tackle the climate emergency, starting with enhancing east London’s natural environment
● Successful bids win £25,000 grant plus access to support, expertise and networks on and around Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
● Two-year programme part-funded by £1.47m from the UK government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund



SHIFT, east London’s innovation agency based at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, has today (Wednesday 4 October) launched a new scale-up programme of funding and support for London-based enterprises working to tackle the climate emergency. The project is part-funded by the UK government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

The Future Industries Demonstrator Programme provides pioneering start-ups and SMEs with financial backing, as well as linking them to the collaborative networks, workspaces and local knowledge resources that give them the best chance to succeed. The theme of the first challenge is ‘Natural Cities.’ Organisations that are working on a solution to one or more of these key challenges facing east London’s natural environment are particularly welcome to apply:

Safeguard our Water Systems: Reducing risk from flooding and drought, restoring natural water bodies and protecting water resources
Clean our Air: Reducing air pollution from existing sources and removing pollutants
Halt and Reverse Biodiversity Loss: Promoting biodiversity and the wellbeing of natural spaces
Fight Rising Temperatures: Combatting the urban heat island effect
Create a Capital Without Waste: Minimising waste and its impacts

Abdul Rahim, the Chief Innovation Officer of SHIFT highlighted that this isn’t a call for piecemeal change, it’s a demand for systemic responses. That means considering the complexity of how different aspects of our urban environments are connected, and bringing forward holistic, comprehensive solutions.

Abdul Rahim, Chief Innovation Officer of SHIFT, said: “SHIFT is committed to bridging the gap between real, local need and market-defining innovations. By spotlighting challenges encountered by local communities, we hope to ensure that supported solutions possess genuine and significant potential to meet urgent challenges for east Londoners whilst accelerating the net-zero transition for the capital.”

Andrew Roughan, CEO at Plexal, said: “Plexal is a founding partner of SHIFT and little over a year from launch, it’s a pleasure to further our role within the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park innovation district to be part of SHIFT’s Future Industries Demonstrator Programme. As an innovation company and workspace for trailblazing founders, our mission at Plexal is to solve society’s challenges through collaboration with organisations. Therefore, we’re excited to be delivering the Venture Creator programme to discover and support sustainability startups committed to achieving net zero as part of our involvement.”

Alex Russell, Executive Director, Hackney Wick and Fish Island Community Development Trust CIC, said: “We are excited to be a partner of The Future Industries Demonstrator Programme. The programme provides a great platform for SMEs with innovative ideas to tackle the climate crisis, in partnership with industry, community and academia. We also welcome the continued support of The Loop – the creation of a cluster of circular economy initiatives on the Park – under the stewardship of the CDT, a community ownership model.”

The second and third Innovation Challenges will be open for applications in February 2024 and July 2024. The Open Innovation Challenges will focus on the intersection between the real problems that citizens and institutional buyers face locally and the market solutions that, with investment and tailored support, can accelerate the collective transition to Net Zero.

Successful applicants will receive:
£20,000 grant to supplement scaling plans
£5,000 budget to support testbed deployment
Access to world-class workspaces, including The Loop, east London’s hub for circular economy businesses.
Expert support from specialists at innovation company Plexal and University College London
1:1 coaching with a circular business specialist
Support programme facilitated by SHIFT.
● Businesses based in the Hackney Wick & Fish Island Creative Enterprise Zone will be considered for an additional capital grant up to £10,000 to supplement their scaling plans after completing their initial development through the programme.

Applications are now open to the first of these via the SHIFT website. SMEs and individuals can also sign up to become a SHIFT member to stay updated with all the latest information about the Future Industries Demonstrator Programme.


Notes to editors 
The UK Shared Prosperity Fund is a central pillar of the UK government’s Levelling Up agenda and provides £2.6 billion of funding for local investment by March 2025. The Fund aims to improve pride in place and increase life chances across the UK investing in communities and place, supporting local business, and people and skills.


About SHIFT  

SHIFT accelerates innovation that transforms how we live in cities. Formed by a cross-sector network of private, public and academic organisations based at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, SHIFT works with innovators to find, test and demonstrate projects that can deliver global impact in the areas of climate emergency response, health and wellbeing, and mobility. The partnership provides a support platform for innovators that includes expertise, resources and a real-world testbed. SHIFT also
facilitates access to an ecosystem of businesses, universities, local communities and policymakers committed to creating a better future for East London through inclusive innovation and inward investment.


About Plexal 

Plexal is the innovation company solving society’s challenges through collaboration with government, startups and industry. The business is closing the gap between organisations – small and large, local and global, private and public – and working towards a common goal: using science and technology to deliver national security and prosperity. It was founded in 2017 as the innovation centre at Here East.

Providing bespoke consultancy services and state-of-the-art workspaces for over 1,000 innovators, Plexal sources the right partners from our ecosystem of 15,000 connections. It supports entrepreneurs, startups and scaleups building emerging technologies and operates across multiple sectors including cyber, healthcare, intelligence and defence, government, public safety, financial services and telecoms.

Plexal delivers projects for key government departments and global tech companies including the National Cyber Security Centre, Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Amazon Web Services and IBM. The NCSC For Startups alumni of over 60 companies has collectively raised over £430m and created over 700 jobs, while 72 cyber startups that have gone through Plexal’s LORCA accelerators have collectively raised over £300m, generated more than £68m in revenue and hired over 800 people.


About Hackney Wick and Fish Island Community Development Trust CIC 

Working with the private, public and third sectors to secure ownership of buildings and spaces in the HWFI and QEOP area for the benefit of the community. For the past two years, the CDT has been coordinating with local partners to establish a space for a circular economy hub – The Loop – made up of a cluster of businesses, academics and communities aiming to reduce waste in the area. In Spring 2023, the CDT launched its first site – the Textile Reuse Hub – with partners Yodamo, Rise Up East and the Trampery supporting young people from the local area to establish their own creative businesses using sustainable approaches.


About ReLondon 

ReLondon is a partnership of the Mayor of London and the London boroughs to improve waste and resource management and transform the city into a leading low carbon circular economy. ReLondon’s team delivers tailored support to government, businesses and citizens. The organisation works to reduce waste, increase recycling and accelerate London’s transition to a low carbon circular economy by:

● Empowering London’s boroughs and businesses by exploring, testing and proving transformative innovations with them
● Advocating for policy or regulatory change
● Encouraging behaviour change at all levels

ReLondon was established as a statutory Board under the Greater London Authority Act 2007 as the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB).  ReLondon’s business transformation programme is funded by the UK government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, and helps London businesses develop, pilot and launch well-designed and innovative circular initiatives. Leveraging its experience in that field, ReLondon will provide circular economy expertise to support the design of The Loop, to enable a circular system locally.


About Hackney Wick and Fish Island Creative Enterprise Zone

The Hackney Wick and Fish Island Creative Enterprise Zone (HWFI CEZ) is an initiative funded by the Mayor London and managed jointly by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and London Borough of Hackney. CEZ’s are designated areas of London where artists and creative businesses can find permanent affordable space to work; are supported to start-up and grow; and where local people are helped to learn creative sector skills and find new jobs. The Hackney Wick and Fish Island Creative Enterprise Zone (HWFI CEZ) focuses on protecting and enhancing one of the world’s most recognisable ‘at risk’ communities of creators, including artists, makers, designers and performers working across the cultural, creative and tech industries.


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