Innovation17 November 2023

Accelerating innovation in Greater Manchester housing

A multi-million-pound research project is working with industry to deliver energy efficient and sustainable new and existing homes in the Greater Manchester region.

Future Homes is part of the national Innovation Accelerators programme, which is aimed at speeding up the growth of three innovation clusters in Greater Manchester, Glasgow, and the West Midlands, through co-creation and regional partnerships.

As part of the Future Homes project, £3.54m has been awarded to project partners Barratt Developments, Bellway, the Energy Innovation Agency, Q-bot, RED Cooperative, RSK Environment, Saint-Gobain, The University of Manchester’s Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub, and the University of Salford.

The group will work together to create a built environment innovation ecosystem. The main areas of research will be new build housing and retrofit of existing homes, supporting the road towards net zero homes.

University of Salford’s world-leading facilities, Energy House 2.0 and Acoustics, and The University of Manchester’s Centre for Atmospheric Science, will be used to test the areas of energy efficiency, air quality, impact on noise levels, sustainable materials, and the assessment of homes for retrofit using digital technologies. The Salford Energy House and Salford Smart Home, also at the University of Salford, will provide extra data and analysis. At The University of Manchester, the Tyndall Centre will explore the impact of the findings on policy while the Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub will assess material sustainability across full life cycles.

Running until March 2025, the partners will work with business to help understand the energy efficiency of new products for the home and unintended consequences, such as the noise or overheating.

There’s a growing realisation of the importance of the ‘embedded carbon’ of construction products; many common construction materials (bricks, cement, metals, and polymers) require large amounts of energy in their manufacture, giving rise to significant carbon emissions and other environmental impacts. Achieving net zero solutions will require a deeper understanding of whole product lifecycle (manufacture, use, reuse, and disposal) to design systems that avoid unintended consequences. This Work Package, led by the Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub at The University of Manchester, supporting innovators to develop low impact construction products, examining key issues such as recycling/reuse and utilisation of more sustainable raw materials and manufacturing practices.

Project Lead, Professor Will Swan, University of Salford, said:

“Our homes account for around 20% of our total emissions and energy use so there are huge strides to be made.

“The Future Homes project gives us an opportunity to understand how to deliver low carbon and net zero new build and retrofit using unique facilities, such as Energy House 2.0, as well as drawing on expertise from our industry partners and partners at The University of Manchester.

“This is creating an opportunity for Greater Manchester to lead the way in understanding how to get our housing stock to net zero.”

Led by Innovate UK on behalf of UK Research and Innovation, the pilot Innovation Accelerator programme is investing £100m in 26 transformative R&D projects to accelerate the growth of three high-potential innovation clusters – Glasgow City Region, Greater Manchester and West Midlands. Supporting the Government’s levelling-up agenda, this is a new model of R&D decision making that empowers local leaders to harness innovation in support of regional economic growth and help attract private R&D investment and develop future technologies.

Further information on the project can be found here.

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