Case study

Strategies to support a greener economy

With the low-carbon economy critical to UK business growth, researchers from the Derby Business School at the University of Derby have pioneered effective strategies to support more firms to incorporate green practices into their operations.


Securing over £340,000 of European funding for activity between 2016-2022, research has helped businesses supply more low carbon and environmental goods and services to the growing clean growth economy. The researchers’ drive to foster pro-environmental enterprise has not only improved the productivity, growth, sustainability and financial performance of individual firms, but also persuaded regional policy-makers to reconfigure and strengthen the support offer to SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises).

This work is underpinned by a series of large-scale research programmes within Derby Business School which have, over almost two decades, investigated the effectiveness of enterprise support. In recent years, the research portfolio has diversified to place a sharper focus on how firms can achieve pro-environmental business improvements.


Further research, commissioned in 2018 by Learndirect for the D2N2 LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership for Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire), examined the skills needed by the low-carbon and environmental-goods and services sector. This study identified niches of pro-environmental innovation in every sector which could be transferred into the mainstream, given the right skills and knowledge.


These findings have shaped D2N2 LEP's vision for a "clean industrial revolution" set out in its new Regional Energy Strategy, including ways of linking the strategic priorities to the broader skills agenda to help accelerate the shift to a low-carbon economy.

Low Carbon Business Network

Among the many positive outcomes for local companies, one of the most significant is the launch of a Low Carbon Business Network. The network originally received funding from the European Regional Development Fund in 2016 to develop a comprehensive package of bespoke consultancy services, targeted guidance and support for SMEs. Its extensive activities, all informed by ongoing research findings, have included a Green Growth Acceleration programme, three green business marketplace events, three sustainability summits held in association with the East Midlands Chamber of Commerce, and tailored workshops to SMEs across the region.


Following the launch of the network, the Chamber reported a greater degree of engagement from the business community in pro-environmental themed events, with a 5% rise in the average participation rate. Eleven SMEs have been directly supported to gain environmental accreditations, making advances which are set to reduce CO2 emissions by an estimated 5.4 tonnes by the end of 2020.

Funded by the Derby Business School since 2019, the network continues to grow on average by 5% per month and now supports over 130 firms representing diverse sectors from construction to biosciences. It raises awareness of environmental standards, encourages innovative thinking and brings fresh impetus to the development of sustainable technologies.

Success stories

There are impressive individual success stories too. Recon Electrical is moving fast with developments in energy efficiency thanks to support from the Low Carbon Business Network. The network helped Recon develop partnerships with LED manufacturers to put forward a positive message about improved productivity as well as cost savings to grow their market. One manufacturing company client said: “We have had the lighting in our factory changed ... to LEDs with daylight dimming. This has made a dramatic effect on the feel of the building, the mood of the staff and productivity. Savings of £2,625 p.a. mean that the installation cost of £4,113 will be paid back in just 19 months. Add that to the increased productivity and positive feel on the shop floor it’s a win-win.”

Taking part in the Green Growth Acceleration programme saw another firm, Eco Voltz Ltd, attract increased demand for its electric bikes and accessory ranges accounting for a 15% rise in the turnover from these product ranges.

National attention

The sustained impact of the team’s research has also attracted national attention, with interest emerging from a range of other local authorities, local enterprise partnerships and universities keen to undertake similar pro-environmental capacity-building initiatives. Researchers at the University are currently in dialogue with colleagues at Aston and Brighton universities regarding research funding applications and in further dialogue with the East Midlands Chamber, Sustainability West Midlands, West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Clean Growth UK about sourcing additional funding for regional and national Enterprise Support provision.



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Research papers and reports


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