Why the Humber

Innovation Ecosystem

Bill Walker

By Bill Walker, Chair Future Humber

The Humber has all the vital ingredients of an effective innovation ecosystem to shape its 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 (which is investing £7billion in offshore wind power infrastructure in the Humber) and Siemens Gamesa, who in 2022 will invest a further £186million to double the size of its world-leading wind turbine blade assembly facility in Hull.
  • Begun work on creating Humber Freeport, with UK Government-approved Customs and Tax Zones enabling the region to establish one of the country’s most exciting new business environments.
  • Confirmed investment of up to £500million in the Able Marine Energy Park, ground-breaking new quay and world-class logistics centre at Immingham. AMEP has already secured £117million investment in a monopile manufacturing facility from Korean company SeAH.
  • 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 2030.
  • A leading role in the East Coast Cluster, chosen by Government in autumn 2021 as a nationally significant route to achieving Net Zero. East Coast Cluster brings together Zero Carbon Humber, Net Zero Teesside and Northern Endurance Partnership, and aims to remove nearly 50 per cent of all UK industrial carbon dioxide emissions by 2040.
  • Innovative business leaders eager to collaborate on achieving Net Zero.
  • 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 a global beacon for Clean Growth.
  • And so much more...

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 innovative economic growth through its targeted innovation centres, enabled by funded support programmes for regional businesses. Its Spark Fund has helped local SMEs bring 87 new products to market, secure 33 patents, deliver 145 new-to-firm innovations, and increase profits by £10.4million.
  • Energy & Environment Institute (EEI) – A rapidly growing and world-renowned research team at the University of Hull of more than 100 experts across the energy and environment disciplines. The team is led by Professor Dan Parsons, a world-leading expert in environmental change and flooding, and includes Professor Xudong Zhao, one of the world’s most cited academics in energy efficient technologies.
  • 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. Aura also hosts an innovative Centre for Doctoral Training in Offshore Wind Energy, which also includes Newcastle university, and the Aura Innovation Centre – a £12m collaborative space dedicated to solving technology challenges and exploiting opportunities in achieving Net Zero.
  • 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 and has proved a catalyst for high-growth digital city centre development.
  • Yorkshire Energy Park – a £200m development under construction in 2022. This is a ‘next generation’ energy and technology business park that will drive economic growth and help the Humber remain at the forefront of the global transition to net zero.
  • Ergo - A state-of-the-art office facility based on the Green Port Hull model, targeted at start-up, and associated businesses engaged in clean growth – a partner business facility to the adjacent Aura Innovation Centre at the prestigious Humber Bridgehead business park.

It has the right innovative BUSINESS ASSETS:

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

  • Siemens Gamesa’s extended 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.
  • Drax – the UK’s biggest power station, 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). Drax is investing more than £100million in BECCS in the construction phase alone and say that BECCS will remove eight million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year; deliver the UK’s Net Zero target at a cost £26billion less than alternative options; create and support more than 10,000 green jobs; inject a £3.2billion boost to the economy and show global leadership in green technologies.
  • 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 the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, developing CCUS, low carbon hydrogen and shared infrastructure.
  • East Coast Cluster – Zero Carbon Humber joined forces with Net Zero Teesside and the Northern Endurance Partnership to create the East Coast Cluster which in October 2021 was named by UK Government as a Track 1 Cluster set for deployment by the mid-2020s.
  • Humber Zero – a huge £1.2billion partnership project to protect thousands of jobs and develop technology to capture and safely store carbon emitted by the nationally significant industrial cluster in and around Immingham. Humber Zero is supported by VPI Immingham and the Phillips 66 Humber Refinery. mid-2020s.
  • Yorkshire Energy Park – A £200m development with a direct pipeline into the National Grid which will provide around 4,500 jobs.
  • H2H Saltend – a 600MW low carbon hydrogen production plant which will be one of the world’s first at-scale facilities to produce hydrogen from natural gas, in combination with carbon capture and storage. Norwegian giant Equinor plans to triple its UK hydrogen output through the project, which will enable fuel switching in 2026-27, reducing CO2 emissions by 900,000 tonnes per year. Thereafter Equinor plans to supply hydrogen to Keadby hydrogen power station, which is expected to start-up in 2028-29, with a resulting CO2 emissions reduction close to 2 million tonnes a year. Keadby is operated by H2H partners SSE Thermal.
  • Altalto Immingham – A £500m British Airways-backed development, producing sustainable aviation fuel from household refuse. The company behind this is Velocys, an Oxford University spin-out merged with a US technology specialist.
  • Pensana has secured planning permission for the UK’s first rare earth processing facility at Saltend Chemicals Park near Hull. The facility kickstarts a £90m investment and is expected to create more than 100 direct jobs once completed. Pensana aims is to create a world-class, independent and sustainable supply chain of the rare earth metals vital for electric vehicle, wind turbine and other strategic industries.
  • Pensana – 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 Acetyls, PX Group, Triton Power, Mitsubishi Chemical, Air Products, Tricoya and more at the forefront of technology innovation, including Pensana.
  • 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.
  • 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 successful project completion.
  • SSE Thermal’s Keadby site – 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.
  • CATCH – an impressive industry-led partnership supporting the process, energy, engineering and renewable industries in Yorkshire and Humber. Created in 1999 to support the development of the £6 billion Humber chemical and chemistry using sectors, CATCH now boasts members and partners drawn from across the process engineering, energy, engineering and renewable sectors, their associated supply chains, regional and national government agencies and all four Humber local authorities.

It has the right PEOPLE:

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

  • Two Local Enterprise Partnerships (Hull & East Riding LEP and Greater Lincolnshire LEP) – providing the core links between the region and UK Government, leading on policy and funding, and champions of the region as the UK’s Energy Estuary.
  • Future 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 – and as a globally outstanding ‘Living Lab’ for all things Net Zero.
  • 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 23,000 people and with the ambition to help build a regional economy based on entrepreneurship.

It has the right POLICY environment:

The Government has applauded the Humber Leadership Team’s continuing collaborative commitment, following the re-drawing of the Local Enterprise Partnership boundaries in 2021, 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.

Kwasi Kwarteng, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, says: “The Humber region is at the heart of our commitment to tackle climate change and is already on the frontline of developing vital clean technologies which will change the way people’s homes and businesses are powered while slashing emissions.”

The Humber Industrial Cluster Plan is central to achieving that. HICP will provide confidence to the UK government’s ambitions, encompassing how industrial emissions will change over time and provide the region's projects and industry with a well-defined, optimal route to achieving true net-zero by 2040. The Humber region emits more CO2 than any other UK industrial cluster – 50% more than the next largest – thus providing it with the largest opportunity to harness the collaborative power of regional industry to plot the route to a Net Zero future.

Low carbon innovation is happening so fast in the Humber that this substantial list is highly likely to be incomplete and is extended daily. The eyes of the Net Zero world really are on the Humber!

The World Needs The Humber

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