Search is on for ‘Fab Four’ to build plastic-free future

Businesses on Merseyside are being offered a unique opportunity to play a key role in reducing plastic and carbon, thanks to Liverpool-based company Changing Streams.

The company, which was founded by Liverpool businessman Neal Maxwell in 2018, aims to eradicate the use of plastic in the construction industry, the UK’s second-biggest consumer of plastic after packaging.

The organisation’s key partner the University of Liverpool is looking to establish a total of FOUR PhD research posts across the university.   SMEs are being offered the chance to engage in supporting these highly subsidised research projects, for a small contribution, to help drive forward the green agenda in the region.

Maxwell says, “We’re looking for forward-thinking local SMEs who understand the environmental challenges for the world’s eco-system to sponsor the students and play a key role in research into the best way to reduce plastic and carbon in buildings and building processes.

I was lucky enough to travel to the Arctic Circle in 2018 and saw at first hand the damage being done to animals and the environment by the dumping of plastic in our oceans.  We are the only species on the planet that can do something about the current climate crisis which is why we set up Changing Streams.

The great news for local SMEs is that it will only cost £6k per year over 3 years to sponsor a student as opposed to £27k per year which is the cost in normal times. It’s a massive discount but it’s only available for just a short period of time.

We need to hear from interested parties NOW.   We already have some project outlines;  if one of these sparks your interest, or if you are developing an innovative product or process that would result in the reduction of plastic in the built environment, contact us to see how we can develop this together with the expertise of our Liverpool University partners.

In return for your support your company will receive some fantastic branding and marketing opportunities and play a critical role in this really important research which will go towards helping to build a carbon-free and plastic-free world for future generations.”

Merseyside-based SMEs who are interested in finding out more about the Changing Streams Fab Four should contact to book a ZOOM call with Changing Streams.

Criteria for business sponsorship application

  • An SME is a company with fewer than 500 employees with either:
  • An annual turnover UNDER   100 million euros (£90 million)
  • A balance sheet UNDER 86 million euros (£78 million)
  • The company must have offices located in the Liverpool City Region.

Possible questions for PhD students

  • Do we need to choose between reducing carbon and reducing plastic?
  • Can we measure the carbon and plastic content of the buildings that we live in, work in and sleep in?
  • How do we direct change to help us reduce plastic and carbon in the built environment?
  • Reuse and recycle: is the circular economy the best way to reduce the way we use carbon and plastic in the built environment?
  • Development and testing of innovative structural products and components to reduce the use of plastics in the construction industry
  • Testing and understanding the properties of new low-cost alternatives to plastic for construction applications

Further queries with regard to business sponsorship and PhD posts should be directed to

The process is as follows

  1. Company contacts The Low Carbon Eco-Innovatory (LCEI) with an R&D idea
  2. LCEI match expertise with academics across the university
  3. The academic and SME develop the idea into a PhD level 3-year programme of work
  4. The plan is approved by an LCEI panel to ensure eligibility and quality
  5. A graduate is recruited to undertake the work – SMEs has full input to the section process.
  6. Project starts.

The funding is as follows

  1. LCEI pays a tax-free stipend to the researcher of £16k per annum plus tuition fees for PhD registration £4k per annum
  2. SME contribution of just £6k per annum (£18k in total)
  3. LCEI contributes approx £2k per annum for consumables, travel etc.

In short, LCEI will help to develop the project, and recruit the best graduate for the work.  From the SMEs perspective, they have a full-time graduate working on a programme of work, along with access and supervision from world-class expertise in addition to the facilities required, including labs, workshops, libraries etc. for just £6k per annum.

Background notes for journalists

This project is part of the Low Carbon Eco-Innovatory which is a partnership between the University of Liverpool, LJMU and Lancaster University assisting local SMEs to develop new or improved products, processes and services that will have a positive impact on CO2 emissions.

Projects can be in any subject, with businesses in any sector as long as we can demonstrate the potential for CO2 reductions.  This includes improving and streamlining processes, logistics, energy efficiency, building and architecture, electronics and controls.

The project has had collaborations across the university in, for example: Engineering, Electronics and Electrical Engineering, Chemistry, Biology, Environmental Science and Architecture.  It is not limited to what is traditionally perceived as the ‘green’ sector i.e. wind turbines, solar PV etc., but has specifically been designed as a cross-sectoral approach to assist businesses in all areas to reduce carbon emissions for themselves or their customers.

The project is focused on assisting SMEs with economic activity within the City Region, including Halton and Daresbury, and as such has been created to ensure a simple process and offer the best available assistance through efficient use of ERDF funds.

These are 36-month long-term in-depth collaborative research project giving SMEs access to expertise and facilities plus a dedicated full-time graduate researcher. 

For media enquiries please contact Mick Ord on 07950757845 or email

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