NAA Member News: The Blair Project Social Enterprise Among Innovation Big Winners!
e-Motorsport STEM education provider, The Blair Project is one of TEN Greater Manchester projects awarded millions of pounds in funding after being selected to become part of the city-region’s Innovation Accelerator programme.
The pioneering, Black-led social enterprise, is the only SME, amongst the heavyweight line up of academia, public agencies and corporates to secure a share of £100 million, awarded by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT).
The Innovation Accelerator projects will drive pioneering research, technology adoption, job creation and skills development in sectors where Greater Manchester has existing research strengths, including advanced materials, artificial intelligence (AI), diagnostics, and net zero. Projects will support businesses with adopting new technologies and people developing new skills, while attracting private R&D investment, creating jobs and stimulating economic growth.
The projects were selected by the Innovation Greater Manchester board, a business-led partnership that brings together the private sector, academia and local government, working with Innovate UK and DSIT.
The Blair Project will use the funding to develop AR EdTech For Hydrogen Skills, an education technology (edtech) platform providing hydrogen skills training content for the manufacturing, construction, transport and energy sectors.
Nile Henry, Blair Project founder and CEO said: “This award is a tremendous vote of confidence, which we hope will inspire other SMEs and entrepreneurs of colour to follow our lead. Continuous innovation and adoption of new technologies has always been the central core of our growth strategy. We’re a small business, but we’ve always invested considerable time, energy and resources to learn about and adopt new technologies to grow our competitive advantage.
“One of them was the excellent hydrogen fuel cells ad technologies SME programme run by the Manchester Fuel Cell Innovation Centre at Manchester Metropolitan University. Our growing team of technical trainers are increasingly recognised as leaders in the field of EV skills training, battery and fuel cell technologies, data analytics and augmented reality edtech. I think I can safely say this investment has really paid off!!”
Henry believes The Blair Project can play a ‘big role’ in helping the city region achieve its levelling up vision of a fairer, greener and more prosperous future, where everyone benefits.
He added “The transition to a net zero economy is a chance to do things differently. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to do the right thing not just for our planet but for our people and communities, especially those that have been left behind.
“At the heart of our project is the ambition to break down the barriers to participation through engineering technological solutions that ensure that as the world transition to net zero, it forges a new economy that works for everyone.
“The Blair Project celebrated its 9th anniversary on 20 March. This is the best birthday present anyone could ever have asked for. It’s going to catapult us to a global level.”
Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “Greater Manchester’s selection as one of three Innovation Accelerator regions demonstrates the Government’s confidence in our innovation ecosystem. The projects being backed are undertaking world-leading research to address some of the biggest challenges we face.
“They also align with the sectors where Greater Manchester has emerging or established strengths, like advanced materials, artificial intelligence (AI) and diagnostics. We look forward to working with partners to ensure this funding supports the growth of our future industries and delivers greater prosperity for our people.”
The projects receiving Innovation Accelerator funding align with the four frontier sectors identified as key growth opportunities by the Greater Manchester Local Industrial Strategy – sustainable advanced materials and manufacturing, health innovation and life sciences, digital and creative, and net zero – and focus on the three ‘Technology Families’, as defined by the UK Innovation Strategy, where the city-region has clear comparative advantages.
Greater Manchester will use the Innovation Accelerator pilot to begin to deliver broader aims outlined in the Innovation Greater Manchester vision for sustainable and inclusive economic growth through innovation.