Innovation Ecosystem

Bill Walker

By Bill Walker, Chair Marketing Humber

The Humber has all the ingredients of an effective innovation ecosystem capable of shaping its economic transformation into a world leading, low-carbon economy.

10 min read

It is the right PLACE

The Humber has:

  • The world’s largest offshore wind farms, driven by Ørsted (who are investing £7billion in offshore wind power infrastructure in the Humber) and Siemens Gamesa, who chose Hull to build their latest global blade assembly facility in the UK, together with a bespoke training centre.
  • The UK’s Energy Estuary, providing power for the Northern Powerhouse, contributing to more than a quarter of the UK’s current energy needs and the focal point as the UK seeks to produce 40GW of offshore wind energy to reach net zero by 2050.
  • Innovative business leaders eager to collaborate, facilitated by the University of Hull, on achieving a low-carbon ecosystem.
  • A commitment from the strategic Humber Leadership Team of LEPs and Local Authorities to build collaboratively on the region’s position as the UK’s Energy Estuary and become the nation’s capital of Clean Growth.

It has the right RESEARCH & INNOVATION:

The Humber is home to:

  • University of Hull – World-class academics and inventors across a range of disciplines are dedicated to leading regional economic growth through its targeted innovation centres, enabled by funded innovation support programmes. Most notably, Spark Fund has helped local businesses secure £34m in new sales, brought 63 new products to market and secured 33 patents in three years
  • Energy & Environment Institute (EEI) – A world leading, rapidly growing, research team at the University of Hull is now approaching 100 people. The team is led by Professor Dan Parsons, an acknowledged expert in environmental change and flooding, and includes Professor Xudong Zhao, one of the world’s most cited academics in energy efficient technologies. The EEI has a portfolio of active research grants and projects of over £21m.
  • Aura – A pioneering partnership led by the University of Hull and described in the UK Government’s Offshore Wind Sector Deal as a ‘collaborative innovation cluster that is a model for the world.’ Aura partners include Ørsted, Siemens Gamesa, Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, universities of Durham, Hull and Sheffield, CATCH business and training partnership, and the National Oceanography Centre. It is also supported by Northern Powerhouse, Humber Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Green Port Hull.
  • Aura Innovation Centre – A £12m collaborative space dedicated to solving technology challenges and exploiting opportunities in clean growth.
  • Centre for Digital Innovation (C4Di) – An award-winning collaborative technology incubator for some of the brightest start-ups, C4Di has helped business’ biggest names use technology more effectively.
  • The UK Offshore Wind Operations & Maintenance Centre of Excellence – A £2m collaboration between Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult and the University of Hull, now based at the Catapult’s new Humber headquarters in Grimsby.
  • Total Environment Simulator – Based at The Deep aquarium in Hull, enabling climate change projects from research partners across Europe in a unique physical modelling infrastructure.
  • A £1.4million state-of-the-art immersive offshore training facility developed by Orsted at the innovative Modal Training Centre in Immingham.

It has the right innovative BUSINESS ASSETS:

The Humber is home to existing or confirmed investment and development, including:

  • Siemens Gamesa’s state-of-the-art global offshore wind turbine blade manufacturing facility and bespoke training centre in Hull.
  • Ørsted’s £10m offshore wind operations & maintenance centre (the world’s largest) in Grimsby, alongside the innovative Marine and Helicopter Co-ordination Centre (MHCC), the only one of its kind across all Ørsted global locations.
  • Yorkshire Energy Park – A £200m development with a direct pipeline into the National Grid which will provide around 4,500 jobs.
  • Gigastack – Led by ITM Power, Ørsted, Phillips 66 and Element Energy, showing how renewable hydrogen derived from offshore wind can support the UK’s 2050 net-zero greenhouse gas emission target. The second phase, which has now received Government funding, will identify regulatory, commercial and technical challenges for applications of industrial-scale renewable hydrogen systems.
  • Altalto Immingham – A £500m British Airways backed development, producing jet fuel from household refuse. The company behind this is Velocys, an Oxford University spin-out merged with a US technology specialist. It will use an existing direct pipeline to Heathrow Airport from Total Lindsey Oil Refinery, and it will be ‘plug-in ready’ for carbon capture and storage.
  • Energy Works – Received almost £20m in European investment to produce renewable energy though innovative recycling and energy conversion technologies. The facility aims to produce electricity to power 43,000 homes. It includes an educational resource centre in partnership with the University of Hull.
  • Saltend Chemicals Park – A 370-acre blue-chip site which has seen more than £500million investment in recent years and is home to world-class chemical and renewable energy businesses including Ineos, Nippon Gohsei, Triton, Air Products, Tricoya and more at the forefront of technology innovation.
  • Green Port Hull – A collaboration between Hull City Council, East Riding of Yorkshire Council and Associated British Ports, supported by the University of Hull. Green Port Hull was set up to promote investment and development of the renewable energy sector in the Humber and support investors and their supply chains to secure long-term economic growth. This work continues through its partners following project completion.
  • Ergo – A state-of-the-art office facility based on the Green Port Hull model and targeted at start-up and associated businesses engaged in clean growth – a partner business facility to the Aura Innovation Centre.
  • Drax – the UK’s biggest power station, is leading the race to clean energy production. Drax was the first company in the world to announce an ambition to become carbon negative by 2030 by using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). In 2019 Drax became the only power generator in the world to have captured carbon dioxide from a 100% biomass feedstock using BECCS technology, through its successful pilot project.
  • Zero Carbon Humber – a game-changing £75million partnership including Drax, Centrica, British Steel, Equinor, National Grid, Mitsubishi Power, px Group, SSE Thermal, Triton Power, Uniper, Associated British Ports and AMRC developing CCUS, low carbon hydrogen and shared infrastructure.
  • Humber Zero – a partnership project to decarbonise critical industry backed by Vitol-owned VPI Immingham, Phillips 66 Humber Refinery, integrating CCS and hydrogen technology within an existing industrial cluster.
  • SSE Thermal’s Keadby site – which includes the operational Keadby 1 Power Station, the cutting-edge Keadby 2 Power Station which is currently under construction, and plans for Keadby 3, which could become the UK’s first power station equipped with carbon capture and storage technology. Elsewhere in the region, SSE operates Keadby Wind Farm, England’s largest onshore wind farm, and two gas storage facilities on the East Yorkshire coast.

It has the right PEOPLE:

The Humber has a proud tradition of business collaboration and enablers including:

  • Humber Local Enterprise Partnership – The core link between the region and Government, leading on policy and funding, and champion of the region as the UK’s Energy Estuary.
  • Marketing Humber – A powerful member organisation to strengthen and unify the Humber’s voice to external audiences, promoting the area as a great place to live, work, study, invest and visit.
  • Hull & Humber Chamber of Commerce – Has 2000 members and affiliates of all sizes and sectors across the region and a strong record of international engagement.
  • For Entrepreneurs Only (FEO) – a community of like-minded people with a combined turnover of £3.5billion, employing 22,000 people and with the ambition to help build a regional economy based on entrepreneurship.

It has the right POLICY environment:

The Government has welcomed the Humber Leadership Team’s continuing collaborative commitment to build on the region’s reputation as the UK’s Energy Estuary by maximising its myriad clean energy assets and opportunities to decarbonise its existing infrastructure.

Humber Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and CATCH won Innovate UK funding to work together to create the Humber Industrial Decarbonisation Roadmap – setting out plans to decarbonise the region’s major industries through measures such as Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage and hydrogen fuel switching. It will complement wider work on decarbonisation being led by the LEP and partners as the region targets becoming net zero carbon by 2040.

The roadmap will embrace two regional deployment projects:

  • Industrial Decarbonisation Deployment Project: Identifying anchor projects to maximise emission reductions and developing world leading industrial CO2 transport and storage system.
  • Green Hydrogen for Humber: Leading to the production of renewable hydrogen, at the Gigawatt scale.

The Humber is committed to a ‘whole place’ approach to decarbonisation and will:

  • Continue to develop as a global centre for clean energy generation.
  • Remain a home for energy-intensive industries and help them innovate through transition to clean energy, supporting sectors that are strategically important to the UK (and employ large numbers), such as steel, chemicals and oil refining, and exploring the potential for diversification and industrial symbiosis.
  • Transition transport to electric and hydrogen fuel.
  • Be the first region to deploy carbon capture, utilisation and storage at scale.
  • Collaborate with other areas to scale up the offshore wind sector.
  • Stimulate local supply chain development.
  • Be the national centre of excellence for offshore wind skills.
  • Prepare for decommissioning and repowering work, developing a circular economy.
  • Embed clean energy in the local energy system and wider economy.
  • Innovate with battery storage and alternative energy vectors such as hydrogen and ammonia.

Low carbon innovation is happening so fast in the Humber that this substantial list is likely to be incomplete and is extended almost daily.

The World Needs The Humber

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