In the past decade, the South East has developed into a centre of world-class innovation and entrepreneurial activity in the renewable and energy sectors. The areas surrounding London, including Cambridge and Oxford, have formed tight knowledge clusters by drawing inspiration from a proliferation of universities, colleges and corporate R&D institutes.
As a result of attracting leading innovations and new technologies within the sector this area has been labelled the ‘Golden Triangle’. To become more like its southern counterpart, the North West must continue to nurture new energy and environmental businesses in order to accelerate the flow of investment to the region.
One way we can do this is by maximising the potential of those clusters close to the M56 and M62, from the Wirral in the west to Manchester Airport in the east. I call this growing area of green business the ‘North West Energy Corridor’.
This cluster has been identified as a key economic driver to boost growth within the sector, primarily because of excellent motorway links to all parts of the country, but also because of its proximity to the international airports in Manchester and Liverpool.
The energy corridor is now home to a large number of vital renewable connections,
including global player Siemens Energy in Manchester, shipping and offshore engineering business Cammell Laird in Liverpool, and water utilities company United Utilities inWarrington.
Clean energy businesses are gravitating towards the region because of innovation hubs like Sci-TechDaresbury, which has also been granted enterprise zone status. The Heath in Runcorn and the Energy Innovation Centre in Capenhurst, Chester, are other clusters that are attracting innovative companies to the region.
However, it is not just the area along the M56 and M62 corridor that has great potential in the North West.
The coastline of the Irish Sea in Cumbria makes up Britain’s Energy Coast and is regarded as one of the UK’s most promising regions for offshore energy. The area has also been identified as a key strategic area for wind energy investment as it is home to more that 170 SMEs and international businesses. The ports at Workington, Barrow, Liverpool and Birkenhead, boast excellent facilities and are all geared up to serve the needs of offshore energy.
The UK’s £12.5billion renewables sector currently provides 110,000 jobs across the supply chain, according to the Renewable Energy Association (REA), making it one of the fastest-growing sectors. With Government aims to increase the UK’s fuel mix from renewable sources from 7.9% to 15% by 2020, another 400,000 jobs need to be created across the country to support the switch.
To add to this, concerns are rising about climate change. The demand for energy is expected to double by 2050, creating a huge amount of pressure to increase the global supply of renewable energy.
This leaves plenty of scope for North West businesses to capitalise on the opportunities that are readily available in the sector.
The North West Fund for Energy & Environmental is one of six sub funds that make up The North West Fund, a substantial pot of money provided jointly by The European Regional Development Fund and the European Investment Bank. We work tirelessly to support growth and ensure that businesses based in Cumbria, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire can maximise their potential.
To date The Fund for Energy & Environmental has invested in a number of new market entrants, including fuel cell systems developer ACAL Energy in Runcorn, bioenergy solutions supplier Imperative Energy, based at Manchester Airport, Carlisle-based reseller and installer of renewable energy, EcoLogicLiving and regeneration consulting business PlaceFirst in Didsbury, Manchester.
With excellent connections along the North West Energy Corridor and the huge potential of clean energy,
now is the time for businesses to seize the golden opportunity that is in the palm of their hands
and help the North West become a European leader for energy.
Adam Workman is the manager of The North West Fund for Energy & Environmental.