Posted on:
18th October, 2021

Positioning our region as a leader in the race to net zero.

Mark Duddridge is Chair of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP. Here, he sets out how the LEP's investment in R&D and innovation in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly is positioning the region as a leader in the race to net zero.

Positioning our region as a leader in the race to net zero.

"As the UK prepares to host the UN’s COP26 climate change summit, I’m reminded of the Prime Minister’s words when Cornwall hosted the G7 Summit in June: “As the world builds back better from coronavirus, Cornwall will lead the way,” pledging that Government would back a major drive to make Cornwall the first net zero region of the UK.

That pledge coincides with Ministers putting climate change at the heart of its economic policy in the drive to be net zero by 2050.

Achieving a net zero economy in that timeframe requires rapid investment in green technologies to decarbonise our homes, cars and industries on a massive scale.

Our goal as the business-led LEP, working with our partners across industry and in local and national Government, is to unlock investment in Cornwall to help power the green industrial evolution that is needed to achieve net zero.

And it’s why we’ve invested in a range of innovation and R&D projects on our patch, from promoting the Celtic Sea for floating offshore wind power, to investing £600,000 from the Local Growth Fund in a community electric vehicle and local grid balancing pilot project on the Isles of Scilly.

In doing so we can create high-value industries and well-paid jobs in Cornwall, and help Government deliver on its levelling up agenda and low carbon economy ambitions.

And the reason we can do that is because Cornwall is blessed with an abundance of natural resources and unique assets that will be critical to the clean energy transition.

We are in dialogue with Government about investment in Cornwall on a number of fronts:

The UK’s technology metals powerhouse

Cornwall’s unique geography offers an abundant supply of critical technology metals like lithium for electric vehicle batteries, copper and tin, many of which are setting record prices as demand soars.

We’re asking the Government to support private sector investment in Cornwall to create an indigenous, secure and environmentally sustainable tech metals extraction industry for the UK which will be critical to the increased electrification and digitisation of the UK economy.

The LEP is already investing £2.9m from the Government’s Getting Building Fund in a pilot R&D lithium extraction plant where ‘globally significant’ grades of lithium have been found in geothermal waters. Investing in Cornwall’s resource development now to unlock the mineral reserves still below us would significantly accelerate the levelling up of our economy.

Green energy pioneer

Cornwall is pioneering green energy technologies to take advantage of offshore wind, deep geothermal and biomethane resources in the transition to a low carbon economy. This includes a floating wind energy demonstrator project to unlock the potential of the Celtic Sea for floating windfarms; a planned network of geothermal power plants to tap into energy underground for carbon-free electricity and heat; and capturing methane gas from agriculture for transport, heating and power generation in rural communities.

We’re asking Government to back Cornwall’s potential to power the net zero economy with a combination of strategic infrastructure investment, skills development at all levels to support these growth areas, devolved regulations and benign leasing and subsidy regimes for green energy.

Space and satellites

Cornwall has two global space assets in Spaceport Cornwall at Cornwall Airport Newquay, and Goonhilly Earth Station. Both are being upgraded with significant LEP investment from the Local Growth Fund (LGF) and Getting Building Fund (GBF) as part of the UK’s ambition to secure 10% of the global space market by 2030.

We’ve put £8.4m of LGF into Goonhilly to create the world’s first commercial deeps-space communications station, capable of tracking future missions to the Moon and Mars. At Spaceport Cornwall we’ve invested £500,000 of LGF in infrastructure and £1.5m of GBF in a new Aviation Centre, part of a new Centre for Space Technologies that paves the way for the first satellite launch from UK soil in the summer of 2022 from Newquay, using Virgin Orbit’s horizontal launch system.

Cornwall could provide an end-to-end capability where satellites are designed built, launched and tracked from Cornwall, and their data used for environmental intelligence and modelling for the low carbon transition. We’re asking for Government to support a Satellite Incubation and STEM Outreach Centre at Newquay, and the creation of a Deep Space Network at Goonhilly to take a global lead in deep space communications.

These ambitions chime with the Government’s National Space Strategy which was published last month and includes as priorities the UK achieving the first small satellite launch from Europe in 2022, and using space technology to fight climate change.

Our aim at the LEP is to position Cornwall as a global leader in the green industrial revolution, and help Government deliver on its levelling up promise to the people of Cornwall and Scilly."