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UK regions awarded net zero research funding

UK Research & Innovation has announced the winners of the second phase of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund’s decarbonisation of industrial clusters: cluster plan competition.

Six projects across the UK will receive a share of £8m as part of a drive to create the world’s first net zero emissions industrial zone by 2040.

The six winners are a combination of consultancies, development companies, local authorities, partnerships and consortiums.

The winners have won funding for plans to work towards net zero industrial clusters in six UK regions:

  • in South Wales the cluster plan will be led by CR Plus consultancy
  • in the West Midlands the Black Country Consortium will be the lead
  • in the Tees Valley the cluster plan will be overseen by the Tees Valley Combined Authority
  • in the North West the cluster plan will be led by Peel Environmental
  • in the Humber the cluster plan will be led by the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership
  • in Scotland the cluster plan will be led by NECCUS, an alliance of industries and experts.

All the winners have produced initial plans for reducing emissions across these major industrial clusters.

Over the subsequent years the winning projects will build on these preliminary roadmaps, bringing together industry and public sector bodies in each region in a comprehensive effort to devise a route to net zero emissions. These findings will be integrated for all the regional cluster plans and will draw conclusions which will be valuable for the UK as a whole.

Reducing emissions

The challenge has been to reduce emissions while maintaining the productive and competitive strength of the industrial cluster. Solutions include integrating the processes of multiple industries and sectors to save energy. Examples of this include:

using waste heat from metal manufacturing to generate steam for use in urban agriculture

identifying the best decarbonisation approaches options that will work for multiple industries, in order to benefit from economies of scale.

The competition forms part of UKRI’s ISCF Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge. The challenge aims to lay the foundations for scalable and replicable industrial cluster decarbonisation through coordinated investment in:

  • research
  • technology demonstrations
  • shared infrastructure
  • research and cluster collaboration.

Projects funded

South Wales industry – a plan for clean growth

Region: South Wales

Project Lead: CR Plus consultancy

The South Wales Industrial Cluster is a diverse mix of critical industry that have come together to collaboratively achieve common objectives for decarbonisation and clean growth delivering job security.

Led by CR Plus consultancy the SWIC plans centres around a five-stepped approach to net zero carbon. Five spatial zone types will allow SWIC to take immediate steps toward NZC with a low chance of incurring “Regret Capital”.

As well as targeting a NZC cluster by 2040, this plan focuses on societal needs, circular economy and clean growth aspirations of the region, tackling the common and unique commercial and operational challenges facing SW industry.

Repowering the Black Country phase 2 cluster plan

Region: Black Country

Project Lead: The Black Country Consortium

The Black Country is one of seven strategic industrial clusters across the UK being supported by BEIS and Innovate UK to decarbonise by 2040. By 2030, without radical action, Black Country industry will be responsible for 2.3MtCO2 emissions a year. From an industrial base of more than 3,000 energy-intense businesses, many still engaged in the region’s traditional metal processing operations.

This project is led by the Black Country Consortium, a partnership of private, public and voluntary sector organisations. It aims to reduce these emissions to zero by 2030 through a coordinated programme of transformational projects focused around a new type of industrial estate: the zero carbon hub.

Zero carbon hubs will be based around anchor industrial processes, strategically-selected to match Black Country skills and strengths (for example aluminium reprocessing). Each hub will contain a mix of businesses carefully selected to complement each other by thinking about their energy and waste flows.

Net Zero Tees Valley: cluster plan stage 2

Region: Teesside

Project Lead: Tees Valley Combined Authority

The Tees Valley is the UK’s most compact and integrated industrial cluster with a radius of five miles. The cluster includes several of the UK’s top CO2 emitters and is responsible for 8.8 million tonnes of CO2. The Tees Valley industrial cluster:

  • generates £12bn of exports annually
  • employs over 12,000 people
  • currently contributes some £2.5 billion to UK GVA.

The cluster plan will be led by the Tees Valley Combined Authority. It will identify the most appropriate range of technologies and potential pathways for the various industrial producers and energy generators in the Tees Valley, considering both existing and future new entrants. It is expected that this plan will combine carbon capture at scale, fuel switching to hydrogen, integration of renewables, low carbon energy sources, feedstocks changes, together with improved process and energy efficiencies.

Scotland’s net zero roadmap

Region: Scotland

Project Lead: NECCUS

To achieve net zero by 2045 Scotland needs to decarbonise industry, transport, heat and power. Scotland’s Net Zero Roadmap project will provide the roadmap to enable large-scale industrial CO2 emissions reduction in a way that focuses on ensuring the continued, but evolving, contribution of high-value industry and employment in a future net zero economy.

Led by Neccus, an alliance of industries and experts, the SNZR will provide the roadmap that enables the deployment of options in a way that ensures competitive decarbonisation through continued and growing prosperity across the economy.

Scotland is in a strong position to lead this new large scale CO2 management industry. Offshore Scotland has some of Europe’s best-characterised and largest CO2 storage sites. CCS and hydrogen will create opportunities for jobs and economic activity and help transition staff employed in sectors such as oil and gas.

The net zero NW cluster plan

Region: North West

Project Lead: Peel Environmental

The Net Zero NW cluster plan, led by Peel Environmental, a development company, will set out the transition to net zero for industry in the North West of England and North East Wales. It will describe the investments, technologies, infrastructure changes and sequencing required to fulfil the UK’s Industrial Clusters Mission.

Industry and public sector bodies, building on the preliminary research completed in phase one, will collaboratively promote and engage on plans to decarbonise, ensuring businesses have a strong voice in planning decarbonisation activity in line with current and future business needs whilst leveraging inward investment opportunities.

By enabling multiple industrial facilities to reduce their emissions by the greatest possible extent, with knock-on effects in the reduction of commercial, domestic and transport emissions, the Net Zero NW Cluster Plan hopes to realise:

  • over 33,000 new jobs
  • over £4 billion investment
  • the world’s first net zero industrial cluster.

Humber industrial cluster plan

Region: Humber

Project Lead: Humber Local Enterprise Partnership

The Humber Local Enterprise Partnership (Humber LEP) and membership organisation CATCH will lead on the project and work with industrial partners across the Humber to develop the Humber Cluster Plan. It will enable the Humber industrial cluster — the UK’s largest by carbon emissions — to achieve net zero by 2040.

The Humber emits more CO2 than any other industrial cluster (30% more than the next largest), whilst the area is one of the most vulnerable to climate change. A quarter of the Humber’s gross value added and 1 in 10 jobs depend on these industries. Safeguarding their competitiveness is imperative for the local economy as well as strategically important for the UK.

A phased approach will:

  • prioritise near-term deliverable investments that will see quick results, significantly reducing the Humber’s emissions by 2030
  • map out how CCS and hydrogen infrastructure can be scaled up over time
  • identify the full range of interventions required to achieve net zero by 2040.

HCP will also outline the potential for the Humber’s industrial decarbonisation to support decarbonisation beyond the industrial cluster. This includes:

  • maritime in the UK’s largest ports complex
  • road/rail transport
  • decarbonisation of the gas supply (25% of the UK’s supply passes through the Humber).

Linked opportunities and implications for renewable energy, especially BECCS and offshore wind (both of which the Humber leads on and are integral to decarbonising industry), will also be identified.

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