Grants / Projects we are funding

Onion Collective CIC – Is another way possible? Community at the heart of industrial innovation

Grant details


Awarded on:01/02/2019

Duration:36 months


Themes covered


Industrial policy takes a top-down approach and relies on the trickling down of benefits to communities. Far too often this leaves smaller, more isolated places in a very vulnerable position, with little flexibility and resilience should industry move away. This project starts with community needs, exploring if it is possible to design in an industry that would work for both community and business.

What is the issue?

We know that who participates in the economy matters and that places and people need agency and power as much as belonging and connections. But we also know that the driving priority of the industrial and innovation agenda is productivity and growth, not the needs of the people most vulnerable to its consequences. This project asks if another way is possible. What if innovation and industrial decision-making, and funds, were directed to community well-being as much as economic development. What if the people most vulnerable to economic change had a meaningful stake in economic growth? What if we re-imagined industrial innovation at a local level, placing community and social needs at its core and sharing power with the most impacted? What if disenfranchised communities became agents of innovation at a genuinely local level? This project aims to redress that disconnect between industrial growth and societal responsibility, using community as a tool, and Watchet – a small coastal and rural town in West Somerset – as a replicable case study.

What will the project try to achieve?

Onion Collective aim to transform the economy of West Somerset through the creation of a community-led industry with global significance. The work follows on from a multi-faceted feasibility study that identified bio-recycling – the processing of complex waste streams using living organisms – as the most appropriate, future proofed new industry for place and community. This work seeks to turn these ideas into a reality, creating a ground breaking strategic demonstration project for a community focused model of industrial innovation. It will demonstrate that by resourcing a community, place-based needs can be injected into the innovation agenda, moving the community from passive recipient  of decisions made far away to an active player in its own future. It will demonstrate that by aligning community needs with industrial decision-making, we can build fairer, more inclusive, more resilient economies.

Who might be interested in this project?

All those interested in ensuring that the next economy is a more inclusive and equitable one, and that vulnerable people are given a voice; those whose concern is building resilient local economies outside of the market’s reach and those who are concerned about the unsustainable treatment of ‘waste’ streams and what the materials of the future should be made of.