How WMG and NatWest are making the UK a hub for mobility innovation

Transport is the largest carbon emitting sector in the UK accounting for more than a quarter of emissions. WMG Innovation Manager James Black discusses the journey that ambitious entrepreneurs are embarking on as they look to shape the future of mobility

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The Clean Transport Accelerator launched by the University of Warwick’s manufacturing group WMG and the bank NatWest has one central mission – make the UK a hub for new mobility innovation and engineering excellence.

“Ultimately, we want innovation in the UK, and UK businesses to thrive. We want job creation, job security, and a flourishing manufacturing sector,” James Black, Innovation Manager at WMG, University of Warwick tells Zag Daily.

Currently in its third cohort, the free six-month programme is an opportunity for 15 manufacturing businesses to gain both business expertise from NatWest and technical expertise from WMG – one of the UK’s most respected departments for driving innovation in science and technology.

James leads the accelerator programme on WMG’s side and supports the businesses with one-to-one coaching.

“For me personally, I love working on the accelerator. If you’re interacting with a very large company, it’s difficult to have that kind of agility where you see the results over the next few weeks. But this happens all the time on the accelerator because that’s what we have created a space for.”

The programme is open to applications from any business committed to clean green transport, and the third cohort has seen admissions from a range of areas including micromobility, software, and infrastructure.

Funding new mobility

The goal of the accelerator is to provide manufacturing startups with the toolkit they need to continue their journey in revolutionising mobility.

One key ingredient to this is accessing funding.

“Something we might see is a business struggle to get investment because typically there’s a lot of capital involved,” James says. “Maybe it’s because investors worry about supply chain risks, or risks associated with R&D. This means it’s possible for new mobility to start looking like a bad proposition to an investor quite quickly.”

But to James, this should not be a reason to back down.

“The way that cities look today is not how they will look in 10 years. Transport has to change. It has to reshape everything. There’s a huge opportunity here.”

Indeed, there’s a level of due diligence to be had. Entrepreneurs will need to understand the supply chain and the involvement of technology but while the process is certainly not risk-free, James argues that it can be de-risked.

“At WMG we have extensive knowledge of supply chain risk and how to quantify it. We can help businesses understand their demand patterns and redesign their supply chains to improve resilience, sustainability and productivity.”

The other major challenge, for micromobility startups at least, is finding differentiation in an increasingly crowded market. 

“They need a clear USP and a reason why their product, service or vehicle cannot be replicated so that the entrepreneur can build a sustainable competitive advantage.

Clean Transport Accelerator

But no matter the journey and the difficulties encountered, James says the Clean Transport Accelerator is the first place a manufacturing startup should want to find itself, joining forces with other businesses in a similar position.

The community aspect is probably the most important part of the accelerator,” says James. “If you’re a business in a 15-strong cohort, then you’ve got 14 founders who are on the same journey, maybe walked some of the same path or are from the same sector.”

“I think accelerators are a great medium of growing your business, they help you connect with the right people, with the right businesses and help you to sell your technology. That was one of our primary reasons for joining the Clean Transport Accelerator.”  

Subham Gupta, CEO & Founder – Space Resources Laboratory.  

Out the other end

Though startups may embark on the same path when they join the accelerator, they each leave on an entirely different one.

“Each business’ journey is so unique. What we do is try to map out the landscape of options and help find the right direction for them.”

Some companies may have seen their venture change so much over the course of the programme that WMG will encourage them to do it all over again. 

“Ultimately, if we’ve done our job as an accelerator, a founder will leave having many more connections, better product/market fit and more understanding of funding options,” James says. “We can also support startups via programmes like WMG internships to assist in their next phase of development.”

This cohort has seen a group of 17 companies instead of the usual 15. They are: Shed Rides, Motocargo, Learning Early, Engines for Good, The Structural Battery Company, Volador FlyTech, Space Resources Laboratory, Zenway Mobility, Baro Vehicles, Hixal, PaMusoro, Freedom Electric Bikes, Moonbility, Conigital Limited, Ednut Power, Flux Aviation and Carnot Engines.

The window for applications for the next cohort opens on 27 November and entrepreneurs can register their interest here.