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Innovation in Exeter

From eco travel to ethical fashion, entrepreneurs across the Exeter area are embracing and leading the changes needed to meet the city’s energy target.

And Exeter continues to offer great opportunities for business start-ups. A steady supply of world class graduates from the university and college, coupled with large scale investments such as the Exeter Science Park and the Innovation Centre, make the city an ideal choice for new businesses. The city also offers excellent transport links and is well connected to the rest of the south west, as well as Bristol and London via its rail network.

Leading the way in the city’s transport revolution is Co Cars (including Co Bikes and Co Delivery). Based in the city centre, this social enterprise offers the chance to rent electric or low emission vehicles throughout the south west, by the hour. Co Cars offers an ideal solution for those who don’t want a car of their own but need the use of one from time to time. The company has expanded to provide electric bike hire by the hour, and now also includes a fleet of delivery bicycles within its offering. Some property developers in the area are also embracing the uptake in electric vehicles and installing shared car clubs at new housing developments in the region.

Fore Street in Exeter city centre has for many years been the destination for innovative shops and start-ups, and never more so than right now. Zero Exeter is the city’s zero waste food, home, gift and interiors shop which stocks a wide array of package free goods, where the aim is to undercut prices in supermarkets. The shop has been a great success, particularly during lockdown when consumers across Exeter struggled to purchase goods such as flour and cleaning products from their usual supermarket, so amended their shopping habits accordingly. Residents in nearby St Leonards and Topsham also benefit from zero waste shop, ‘Nourish’ which opened its doors in 2018.

Also on Fore Street is Sancho’s – the home of sustainable fashion. This shop has become a talking point for stylish shoppers who are searching for the latest trends and fashions but without them having a negative impact on the environment. Kalkidan Legesse Mekuria met business partner Vidmantas Markevicius while they were both studying at the University of Exeter. They launched Sancho’s in 2014 with the aim of connecting the consumer with the maker, and they encourage shoppers to ask questions about the garments that they buy, so that they feel fully informed about its provenance when they make their purchase. Sancho’s is absolutely committed to providing a fair wage to its makers and recognises that sustainable clothing is often more expensive than ‘fast fashion’. The store has recently introduced a transparent pricing option on some garments, meaning that three different price points are available, and that the consumer can see exactly where their money is going with each option.

Helen Scholes, Exeter Chamber of Commerce board director and lead on sustainability said: ‘From operating in an efficient, environmentally sound manner to responding to consumer demand for ethical goods and services, more and more business leaders see sustainability as a key driver for their success. Exeter Chamber is proud that this city is home to such a diverse, dynamic, innovative and ever-growing range of sustainable businesses.’