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Thursday, 18 September 2014

Diversification key to low carbon economy

WEST Cumbria is renowned for its nuclear heritage, but Britain’s Energy Coast is drawing on that experience in a bid to diversify the local economy.

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POWERING THE FUTURE: Renewable technologies such as solar power will be central to creating new products, companies and jobs in Cumbria

BEC is working with a range of partners on a number of key projects that will help West Cumbria to benefit from and capitalise on the transition to a low carbon economy.

It is expected that renewable technologies – such as anaerobic digestion, biomass, solar, tidal and wind power, which are still becoming mainstream in the UK – will be central to creating new products, companies and jobs.

David Jones, BEC’s head of projects, energy and business support, said: “We need to diversify the local economy to ensure we are not wholly reliant on the nuclear sector and clean technologies and renewable energy is an obvious way for us to do that.

“There are opportunities to develop our credibility as a place at the forefront of energy and innovation.

“We are looking at how we can support businesses to align themselves to the opportunities presented by the future demand for clean technology. Over the last few months we have started to develop a portfolio of projects that support the low carbon, energy innovation and clean-tech agenda.”

In June, BEC appointed Swedish consultants BIZCAT to undertake a review of the ‘energy system’ in West Cumbria. BIZCAT will be working closely with local company Westlakes Engineering on the piece of work which will identify how the local energy system could be reconfigured to optimise the energy efficiency of that system, ultimately leading to the creation of new jobs and businesses.

This piece of work should help to identify opportunities for existing businesses to improve their competitive advantage by reducing energy costs. It’s about reducing energy wastage and harnessing untapped or under utilised sources of energy.

“The Swedish have a great deal of expertise in this area of energyinnovation, in energy planning, systems and energy efficiency”.

As an extension to this Scandinavian link, a partnership has been struck with the University of Cumbria and Linköping University in Sweden.

Mr Jones said: “We need to create the skills in the economy to benefit from these ‘energy opportunities’ and develop ideas in this area.

“The involvement of the HE and FE providers is really important to that.

“This project and the work we are doing with partners will provide some great opportunities for knowledge transfer between West Cumbria and our Swedish counterparts.”

R&D, innovation and commercialisation of new technology are other keys area of activity that BEC will be focusing on.

The area already has a reputation as a world leader in nuclear science & technology, we are keen to support partners to build on this strength.

We have a wide network of world-class research and development facilities, research programmes and technologically innovative companies. Evidence suggests that technology based firms achieve higher growth and survival rates than other sectors.

With this in mind, we are looking at what else we can do to support and facilitate technology based economic development. Earlier this year, BEC agreed to support a project being delivered by the University of Manchester’s Dalton Cumbria Facility in Partnership with NNL.

Mr Jones said: “It’s about getting as many ideas to the commercial market through the ‘valley of death’ that stops many product ideas coming to commercial fruition”.

By supporting this project and collaborating with partners including, NNL, University of Manchester and UMIP we are able to unlock access to significant sources of funding to support these activities. We are working towards creating an environment in which businesses and individuals are encouraged to innovate.

West Cumbria provides a truly unique opportunity in terms of its skills base, its academic and industrial research and development infrastructure, its support and its access to investment to create a vibrant, expanded economy based on innovative new high and clean technologies.

Mr Jones also revealed BEC is investing in a trial to demonstrate the commercial viability of a technology that will reduce electricity consumption for dairy farmers in the milking parlour process.

He added: “We are looking at other things, such as wet renewable technologies for tidal energy to maximise opportunities in this area.”

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