COVID-19 and climate change, two issues that have rightfully demanded global action over the past year. COVID-19 resulted in swift and immediate action to save lives in the present. But building consensus on taking meaningful action on carbon to save lives in the future has been much more challenging.
Achieving net zero ambitions
I am proud to say that in the last 12 months the industrial decarbonisation challenge (IDC) offers both real hope and tangible progress to achieving our net zero ambitions.
Sitting within the wider government ambition to decarbonise, create a green industrial revolution and deliver clean growth, the IDC has been set up to address market challenges within industrial clusters.
Carbon reducing technologies require higher risk investments and are capital expensive. The IDC aims to help de-risk this investment and support the sector to move forward at scale.
Beyond the delivery of technology and infrastructure to help at least one industrial cluster decarbonise, we want to encourage the sharing of knowledge and information. This includes the creation of a research centre (known to us as Industrial Decarbonisation Research and Innovation Centre or IDRIC for short) bringing together government, academia and industry.
The progress made
Despite the ongoing challenges of COVID-19 and Zoom-powered interactions, the team has racked up quite a few achievements towards these aims.
In terms of numbers, the challenge has successfully:
- allocated £196 million of grants to over 100 businesses
- secured an additional £40 million of funding from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, matched against £208 million of pledged co-investment from our private sector partners.
Altogether this represents over half a billion pounds of funding going towards decarbonisation.
The cluster plan projects, which aim to create a pathway to achieving net zero in each industrial cluster started as planned in January 2021.
The deployment projects, which aim to explore the technology and infrastructure required to decarbonise also started in March and April of this year.
This was a huge achievement for the team, requiring real determination, negotiation and tenacity to reach these important milestones.
Research and innovation centre
The launch of IDRIC was moved from September 2020 to April 2021. The team worked hard with the research council and the IDRIC-led team at Heriot-Watt University to look at ways in which originally planned activities were combined and accelerated. This successfully reduced the impact of the delay to the start of the programme.
Going forward, IDRIC will:
- deliver an exciting programme of knowledge exchange activities
- build a strong evidence base to improve and inform decision making
- manage a £2 million fund to react quickly to new research opportunities that might be identified.
Looking back on all this, it’s amazing what our small but energetic team has achieved working with similarly committed:
- government colleagues
- project partners
It’s clear much has been done but there is much more to do as we cast our eyes towards 2022. We will start seeing the highest levels of our activity across our cluster plans, deployment projects and IDRIC who will all be moving into their full delivery phase.
This also means that we’ll be starting to focus on evaluating and measuring the emerging benefits of our programme.
Demonstrating and showing our impact and success will help us to take the big strides we, and government, need to scale up, embed and adopt industrial decarbonisation across the UK. It will use innovation all pioneered and developed within our challenge fund.
Unanimous and coordinated action on climate change may still prove elusive at international summits. Within the UK, the IDC challenge continues to deliver real outcomes and real hope that reaching net zero targets is still within our grasp.
UK Research and Innovation’s IDC is delivered by Innovate UK.
Top image: Credit: LeoWolfert, Getty Images