Aston Academics help the West Midlands achieve Net Zero through servitization and the circular economy

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Aston Business School’s Advanced Services Growth Programme for SMEs is putting sustainability at the heart of business transformation. The team is working with companies to develop advanced services to build resilience and help the West Midlands lead the way in carbon reduction.

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) recently launched its Net Zero Business Pledge to make the region Net Zero by 2041. Achieving that goal will rely on developing more sustainable business models that deliver profit with purpose and have a positive environmental and societal impact. According to The SME Partnership, part of the Advanced Services Group at Aston Business School, a transition to advanced services can help break the linear model of producing, consuming and discarding and base future growth on a circular economy.

Paula Cresswell, business engagement and programme director at The Advanced Services Group, explained: “In helping SMEs embrace advanced services, we are beginning to see a real role for servitization in ensuring the region meets its Net Zero target.”

By developing a range of services through the lens of sustainability, businesses can support the Net Zero pledge whilst driving efficiencies and creating new revenue streams. Aston Business School’s Advanced Services Growth Programme for SMEs is fully funded and supports businesses in developing new service offers to improve their bottom line, develop more robust supply chains and reduce their carbon footprint. This can be achieved in a number of ways:

Performance monitoring

In addition to selling products to customers, many of the companies working with Aston are exploring how they might use sensors and monitoring solutions to ensure products are efficiently maintained and work as effectively as possible. This can improve product lifespans, and drive efficiencies. At the same time, the supplier is providing a service which boosts its profitability without the environmental cost of manufacturing more products.

Eliminating waste

SMEs can minimise waste by reclaiming products once a customer has finished using them. They are then recycled, repurposed or reengineered. This service transforms one person’s waste to another’s raw material which the SME can then use to make new products or repair existing ones. This virtuous circle benefits the customer, the supplier and the planet.

Materials reduction

By recycling and repurposing products, these advanced services invariably support dematerialisation. They reduce the amount of materials required throughout the supply chain. Valuable raw materials can be used time and again which will have a significant impact on preserving limited stocks and reducing global emissions.

Paula Cresswell said: “By reassessing their business model, manufacturers can build resilience in turbulent times and help future-proof their operation. There is a natural synergy between environmental and commercial sustainability. This is what sits at the heart of the circular economy.”

The SME Partnership is currently recruiting its next cohort of manufacturing SMEs from Solihull and the Black Country. Businesses can access 12 hours of funded support to help servitize their operation through academic engagement, business model innovation and the adoption of new technology.

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