University of Birmingham joins call for government funding to create jobs and bring investment to the Midlands

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Sir David Eastwood, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Birmingham has joined the vice-chancellors of the seven other universities in writing a joint letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Secretary of State for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy asking them to support the Energy Research Accelerator’s (ERA) ‘Big Ideas’ in energy.

ERA forecasts that its plan will result in over 7,000 jobs being created and around £1.5 billion GVA being delivered into the Midlands economy, supporting the government’s aim to level-up the region. The proposal also supports the Net Zero ambitions outlined in the Energy White Paper and the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan.

The Energy Research Accelerator is the UK’s biggest research and innovation collaboration in energy, bringing together over 1,000 researchers and creating 23 world-leading facilities and business partners. The ERA proposal also has the support of almost 40 major businesses which have committed to align expenditure of £1.4 billion, recognising the potential impact of the Big Ideas.

ERA’s ‘Big Ideas’ proposal spans technologies including Energy Storage, Alternative Fuels, Decarbonisation of Heat, Energy from Waste, Low Carbon Transport, Digital Energy and more. ERA is also proposing programmes to run alongside the ‘Big Ideas’ which will provide support to small businesses and energy entrepreneurs, enabling them to access technology and expertise, and develop the skills they need.

One third of all jobs in the UK’s energy sector are based in the Midlands, but the region faces a sharp loss of employment opportunities as old energy infrastructure is phased out. Research in the region has found that without investment in energy, wider business growth in the Midlands could be limited.

Speaking about the vice-chancellors’ letter to government, Professor Martin Freer, Director of the University of Birmingham's Energy Institute and Director of the Energy Research Accelerator, said: “Investment in energy will enable the UK to not only lead the world in energy innovation, but will also help the post-Covid recovery. Our proposal would also play a significant part in the levelling-up of the Midlands, which historically has some of the lowest levels of public sector R&D spend. We will help to create thousands of new skilled jobs in low-carbon energy, and bring over a billion pounds worth of investment to the region.

“Our ambitious programme builds on our successful track record. Since being created five years ago, ERA has leveraged £120m of private sector funding, and our development of new facilities and demonstration projects has resulted in a further £450m of new investment in energy research in the Midlands. We would welcome the opportunity to meet with government to discuss our exciting plans for the future and explain how they will help to put the Midlands and UK at the forefront of energy innovation.”

Find out more about the Energy Research Accelerator’s ‘Big Ideas’ proposal