Midlands’ recovery plans to decarbonise and build green jobs

4,400 new green jobs and a focus on decarbonisation are at the heart of ambitious plans to rebuild the Midlands following the pandemic, it has been revealed by The Energy Research Accelerator (ERA).

Following the presentation of the Comprehensive Spending Review and COP26, ERA has unveiled plans to further its world-leading research into energy solutions and net zero pathways by applying for a further £155m of Government funding.  

The project is representative of the region’s ambitious climate agenda and stands to level up the Midlands, kickstarting employment following the pandemic through the creation of over 4,400 high skilled, green jobs. 

With the initial government funding, ERA has delivered beyond the original expectation and created 23 new research facilities, obtained £120m of industrial funding and close to £450m of total value in terms of new investments in energy research and development. ERA has already helped to create jobs, develop skills and support over 1,000 SMEs and is seeking further funding to continue to build on these successes.  

The provision of proposed funding would help the ERA generate: 

  • £800m in investment for the Midlands
  • 4,400 green jobs 
  • £0.4bn GVA

Focus for the next phase of ‘big ideas’

ERA has identified the major national and regional energy challenges and ‘big ideas’ which it will focus on in the next phase. These are: 

  • National Centre for Energy Storage Scale-Up and Demonstration – accelerating the development of energy storage through integration into the next generation of energy from waste facilities. 
  • National Centre for the Decarbonisation of Heat – supporting the delivery of the decarbonisation of heat for the UK housing retrofit sector. 
  • City scale digital twins – establishing two regional city scale demonstrators of digital twins for energy infrastructure development. 
  • National Centre for low carbon alternative fuels – producing, utilising and characterising alternative fuels replacing fossil fuels for road, marine and aviation transport, plus energy production and heating. 
  • Hydrogen innovation support platform – creating a Midlands wide hydrogen innovation platform that supports SMEs to deploy hydrogen technologies associated with heating and transport applications. 
  • Hydrogen freight and logistics – establishing a series of connected programmes to develop a Midlands hydrogen transport system for heavy vehicles from trucks to buses and trains. 

The ERA project has received cross-party support from the region’s MPs, who see the potential of ERA to support the priorities of the UK, the Midlands and Parliament. ERA already has a proven track record in supporting the UK’s transition to net zero and through new funding, would grow their role in supporting the post-COVID recovery, levelling up R&D spend in the UK, delivering and building on the UK’s science and technology expertise, and improving air quality. 

Significant investment and new jobs

Director of ERA Professor Martin Freer said: Over half a decade, the Energy Research Accelerator has demonstrated its ability to deliver. We have established 23 world-leading facilities, secured £110 million in industrial co-investment, and have brought together over a thousand researchers who are helping hundreds of businesses to innovate and to solve the problems of our transition to zero carbon.  

“Our new proposal builds on this work and has the potential to bring significant investment and jobs to the region. I am delighted that we have received such tremendous support both from industry and parliamentarians from both Houses and across party lines for our plans. We’re looking forward to continuing our work, helping the UK achieve net zero and building a sustainable, financially secure future for the Midlands and the country.” 

A successful recovery

The Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street said: “The West Midlands has been hit incredibly hard by the pandemic, and we know that investing in our growth areas of the future will be key to a successful recovery that helps thousands of people back into work.  

“One of those areas that will be absolutely pivotal to us is energy innovation. Not only has this sector gone from strength to strength in recent years, creating good quality, well-paid jobs in the process, but it also has a key role to play in the fight against climate change and our region’s ambition to be carbon neutral by 2041.  

“At the heart of the sector’s growth has been the Energy Research Accelerator, which has taken £60m of Government funding to leverage a further £120m of private sector funding to create 23 new research facilities across the region. The ERA has a proven track record of delivery, and I strongly support their latest proposals.”