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Proposals for green energy innovation centre at ARU Peterborough presented at Parliamentary event

19 March 2024

An early-stage proposal to create a new research and development institute for sustainable energy at the city’s new university, ARU Peterborough, was launched at a Parliamentary reception in the House of Commons yesterday (Monday 18 March).

Outline plans for The Global Innovation Centre for Energy Transition were presented by TWI, the Granta Park-based engineering consultancy and research organisation, at the event hosted by Peterborough MP Paul Bristow.

The proposed research facility and associated programme of research and development focuses on new technologies for the safe transmission, distribution and use of hydrogen into both industrial and domestic use. The new institute would also work on technology for the safe storage of hydrogen and carbon dioxide (CO2), as well sustainable fuels for aviation.

The proposals position the Global Innovation Centre as at the core of a high growth energy ‘cluster’, around which it is aimed to bring together large energy companies and a consortium of domestic industrial high energy users such as steel, glass and concrete producers.

ARU Peterborough, the Combined Authority and Peterborough City Council were represented at the event by Mayor Dr Nik Johnson, city council Leader Cllr Mohammed Farooq and university Principal, Professor Ross Renton. Other MPs and representatives from industry also attended, including Andrew Bowie MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner, Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman, and Lord Jackson of Peterborough.

The partners’ ambition for the university has always included developing an associated innovation ‘ecosystem’, based on attracting research and development, inward investment and cutting-edge businesses into the area, expanding the campus to accommodate.

At the event, partners highlighted Peterborough’s abundant opportunities for inward investment, tying in with the city’s wider growth and regeneration programme, including the £48 million Station Quarter project.

The importance of Government funding to unlock future phases of the campus beyond the current three phases was emphasised by partners. The successful track record so far of the delivery of the ARU Peterborough campus includes the second teaching building and Living Lab public science facility, part-funded with £20 million from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund. It is on track for completion for the new academic year in September as planned.

Peterborough City Council Leader, Councillor Mohammed Farooq, said: “This event marks a pivotal moment in our city’s journey towards a more sustainable future. The outline business case isn’t just about numbers, it’s about the shared vision and commitment of all partners to turn aspirations into reality.

“As we look to further develop the ARU Peterborough campus, the proposed plans for an energy transition centre would provide a central beacon of innovation for the city and wider economy, supporting new and emerging industries and technologies, as it continues to grow.”

Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Dr Nik Johnson said: “Strong partnership working with the city council and Anglia Ruskin University has delivered the ARU Peterborough campus we see today, and we want to build on that success.

“It is welcome to see outline proposals to develop the campus further aired at this Parliamentary event, and Government support will be so important in unlocking the future phases of ARU Peterborough. The plans have added relevance with urgent need for new technologies to help the country and the world shift to a net zero carbon future to defend against climate change. I look forward to seeing how these plans develop.”

Professor Ross Renton, Principal of ARU Peterborough, said: “We welcome this outline proposal that seeks to further support the growth of the university in Peterborough.

“We are pleased that ARU Peterborough has had an impressive start-up period – earning a range of national accolades and commendations – and our long-term vision has always included the establishment of an industrial research facility, which would work in collaboration with the university. This proposal could bring this vision a step closer.”

Those in attendance at yesterday's event heard that the core objectives of the Global Innovation Centre are to:

  • Accelerate the UK’s transition towards a greener, low-carbon economy, thereby achieving net-zero ambitions and energy security.
  • To develop an innovation ecosystem in Peterborough to drive productive growth in new industries and technologies.
  • To increase higher-skilled employment opportunities focused on global net zero transformation.
  • To increase the skill levels of local people by continuing to align the ARU Peterborough curricula with industry needs.

The proposals describe a potential ten-year research and development programme that could be worth up to £150 million, the creation of hundreds of new jobs, and generating tens of millions of economic growth in the local economy. The proposals highlight the scheme’s support of the wider goal of the long-term levelling up of Peterborough and the north of Cambridgeshire, boosting skilled jobs, wages, social mobility and reinvigorating areas which have fallen behind.

Following the launch event, the partners will continue to work with TWI on exploring the case for the proposals, including engaging with Government on the plans.