The North West of England and North Wales are uniquely placed to lead the quest for clean growth, according to a new report published by Government (March 2019).
One of a series of Science Innovation Audits (SIAs) commissioned by Government , the ‘Clean and Sustainable Growth’ report shows a ‘Coastal Arc’ stretching from Cumbria to North Wales, and including Lancashire, Cheshire and Staffordshire, has both a strong track record for driving clean and sustainable growth on a global scale and significant potential to be world leading.
From leading-edge crop science to new energy systems and pioneering waste management techniques, the report highlights the many strengths which give the ‘Coastal Arc’ a competitive edge in a world which is facing the need to make more efficient use of resources and shift to a low-carbon economy.
Backed by a world-class team of universities, businesses, Local Enterprise Partnerships and local and regional government, the audit was led by Lancaster University.
The report highlights the unique advantages of the Coastal Arc’s geography, scientific expertise, industrial and natural assets.
It also makes a case for:
· The creation of an International Centre of Excellence for Clean and Sustainable Growth that would act as a gateway for businesses and other stakeholders to access the regions’ expertise and facilities
· Capitalising on ambitious projects such as the recently announced ‘Eden North’, which will be created in Morecambe, to develop new research, development and demonstration capacities
· A virtual Clean Growth Training Academy to raise regional skills in this area
· Communicating the immense opportunities and benefits to people and the wider economy that can be delivered by clean and sustainable growth.
· Regional-scale funding mechanisms to support transformational clean and sustainable growth research and development alongside small and medium sized enterprises.
The pressing need to drive down global carbon emissions (highlighted at the United Nations’ climate change conference in Poland and by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report ‘understanding the impacts of 1.5°C global warming’ has prompted calls for urgent action.
However, the audit shows this important change need not come at the expense of growth; in fact the challenge of meeting climate change targets opens the door to untapped potential.
Recognising that clean growth is both a challenge and an opportunity to increase productivity, create jobs and scale-up earning power right across the country, the audit quotes World Bank figures that predict the global market for low carbon products and processes is anticipated to rise to in excess of $US 8 trillion by 2025.
This is an opportunity recognised by Government, which has identified ‘Clean Growth’ as one of its four Industrial Strategy Grand Challenges.
Universities and Science Minister Chris Skidmore said: “We are world-leaders across a range of science and research disciplines, and the SIAs, published today, show the whole nation contributes to that reputation. We are committed to building on these strengths and others in our modern Industrial Strategy through the largest increase in science funding in a generation.”
Mark Knowles, Head of Low Carbon at Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “The Clean Growth sector contributes more than £2bn to Liverpool City Region’s economy employing more than 22,000 people in 1,400 companies. It is probably the most important of our Industrial Grand Challenges as it needs to be delivered throughout every aspect of our lives.
“Delivering transformational Clean and Sustainable Growth is a key driver in the region to create new opportunities for the wealth of talent within the North West Coastal Arc and in supporting the re-balancing of the UK economy.”
Lancaster University Vice-Chancellor Professor Mark E. Smith said: “The collective research leadership of this partnership is globally leading in Environmental Industries, Technologies and Services, and exceptional in the Agronomy and Crop Science, Plant Science and Waste Management sub-disciplines.
“We start from a position of strength and this audit lays the foundations for accelerated action on Clean and Sustainable Growth, understanding and exploiting our particular strengths through collaboration and strategic investment.
“Our priority now is to secure the region’s global leadership in developing eco-innovative products, services and technologies - the solutions needed to deliver Clean and Sustainable Growth in the coming decades and drive growth across our key regional business sectors.
“We are committed to building and coordinating our alliance to ensure the UK brings forward the R&D-driven innovation to make the Clean Growth Strategy a reality.”
Professor Stephen Decent, Lancaster University Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise, said: “Through our word-leading work at Lancaster University we have seen first-hand how Eco-innovation delivers new opportunities for businesses around the world. By harnessing research and translating it into commercially important innovation, together we can enable businesses to flourish.
“The strength of the partnership process enabled through this audit has shown a real commitment by the organisations involved to create a strategic alliance, develop an action plan and convene an implementation group to drive progress. But our manifesto represents only the starting point for action on Clean and Sustainable Growth. I think there are exciting opportunities ahead."
Professor Nigel Paul, Director for the Lancaster University Centre for Global Eco-Innovation (CGE), said: “Our region has huge potential. This report focuses the scope for us to take this much further. We believe eco-innovation is the engine for clean and sustainable growth, delivering the new products, services and technologies needed to boost UK productivity and to meet the changing patterns of demand that are urgently required to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
“Delivering transformational Clean and Sustainable Growth is therefore a key driver in the region to create new opportunities for the wealth of talent within the North West Coastal Arc and in supporting the re-balancing of the UK economy.”
Dr Ruth Alcock, Head of Enterprise & Business Partnerships Lancaster Environment Centre, said: “Across the North West Coastal Arc Partnership, there are internationally leading innovation strengths and assets within the science and industrial base. If they can be coordinated at scale, there is the potential to accelerate the understanding, realisation and implementation of eco-innovation nationally and internationally, enabling both Clean and Sustainable Growth and substantial productivity improvements.
“The diverse businesses that we already work with are making more efficient uses of natural resources, delivering a low carbon economy, reducing impacts on the environment, and enhancing economic and technological resilience to environmental pressures and there is so much potential still to reach.”
In 2015 the UK Government announced regional SIAs to catalyse a new approach to regional economic development. Bringing together powerful, diverse groups from academia, business and government, the audits analyse regional strengths and identify mechanisms to realise their potential.
The North West Coastal Arc consortium was formed in 2017 to undertake a broad-ranging analysis of the area’s capabilities, the challenges and the substantial opportunities for future economic growth. It specifically focusses on strengths in clean growth.
Partners include: Bangor University, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Edge Hill University, Keele University, Lancaster University , Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool University, University of Central Lancashire, University of Chester, University of Cumbria, Wrexham Glyndwr. Local Enterprise Partnerships are Cheshire & Warrington LEP, Cumbria LEP, Lancashire LEP, Liverpool City Region LEP, Staffordshire LEP.