Lancashire Innovation Drone Zone boosted growth in the local economy
The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) led the Lancashire Innovation Drone Zone (LIDZ) project (part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund) which offered specialised drone technology and research support to both new and existing high-growth small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), in the priority sectors of Aerospace and Aviation.
Based in the £35m Engineering Innovation Centre (EIC), the LIDZ project team brought together expertise across all aspects of drone technology and development to help Lancashire SMEs to unlock the potential of utilising drone products in their business.
It further supported those businesses by helping them to diversify or expand operations within a range of growth sectors, enabling them to innovate and diversify through the development of new-to-market and new-to-firm products and services. Throughout its two-year delivery period the project worked with almost 40 Lancashire based SMEs to develop new products or services connected to drone technology.
The project initially struggled to recruit staff in technical positions which is something seen across the sector and demonstrates how needed graduates with aerospace experience are. The Covid Pandemic also delayed the project start, although the team still managed to provide expert support to recipients. Examples of this was the building of drone platforms to carry new payloads, supporting businesses who wished to add onboard drone flying to their existing services, along with assisting workflow development.
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"The support provided by the University of Central Lancashire’s Innovation Drone Zone Team was extremely valuable in accelerating the development and engineering work required to achieve the first flight of our unique aircraft."— Justin Rautenbach, AIRRIE UAS
The main objective of the project was to improve technological capabilities of SMEs by understanding how drones can support/improve their existing business practices. Businesses who engaged with the project had access to specialist engineering skills and facilities to develop their drone platforms without the cost of hiring/contracting the work.
Professor of Aerospace Darren Ansell said: “SMEs often do not have the capital to invest in research and development so the project allowed the opportunity for them to do so, at a lower cost and risk.”
Managing Director of AIRRIE UAS, Justin Rautenbach said: “The support provided by the University of Central Lancashire’s Innovation Drone Zone Team was extremely valuable in accelerating the development and engineering work required to achieve the first flight of our unique aircraft. It would be near impossible for a small business to otherwise access that type of engineering support in the timescales necessary to respond to emerging market opportunities.”
Justin’s thoughts were echoed by Dan Gardner, Defence & Security Business Development Manager of Forsberg Services LTD, who said: "Fantastic support from UCLan, we just couldn’t have done it without you. Darren and the team were extremely helpful throughout the trial, nothing ever too much of a problem. Absolutely awesome team, and an absolute pleasure to work with."
Whilst this project has closed, the University actively supports regional businesses. Find out more through our Enterprise and Engagement Unit who will review your enquiry and signpost you to the most appropriate area of continuing support.