The move to cleaner economic growth is one of the greatest industrial opportunities of our time with one estimate stating the UK’s clean economy could grow at four times the rate of GDP. Investing in the energy sector is crucial to the UK economy, it has the potential to create whole new industries whilst transforming existing ones[i].

The Mayor of the West Midlands has secured government backing for innovation in energy systems to be a particular focus for the region through the Devolution Deal, building on the region’s historic strengths, skills and assets in the energy sector.

In 2017 our commission set out to establish the best ways for the West Midlands to take advantage of the growing economic opportunities generated by the energy sector worldwide. Chaired by Sir David King, this panel of expert commissioners from industry, government, academia and policy have been working collaboratively to identify ways to boost regional competitiveness through the creation of an innovative regional energy market framework.

The recommendation is to trial new approaches to energy in pilot Energy Innovation Zones (EIZs) across the region. EIZs will attract private investment and improve the UK innovation eco-system, meeting customer needs using the latest technologies and approaches integrated in new ways. This is aligned with the government’s new Industrial Strategy and Clean Growth Strategy, and will be fundamental to the effective delivery of a local industrial strategy.

Regionally, EIZs create a flexible mechanism for local areas to address the energy issues that matter to them, whether this is competitive power for manufacturing; smart energy systems to support mass transition to electric and autonomous vehicles; or effective recycling of waste into heat and power to reduce fuel poverty for households.

On an international scale, EIZs provide a managed-risk approach to transforming the UK energy system to be in line with global developments. By exploiting technology in new ways, creating new markets and allowing experimentation and demonstration of new technologies in a commercial context the West Midlands businesses capability to compete internationally will increase. EIZ’s are expected to be much more than demonstration zones: they are a better way to build markets for innovation.

[i] Industrial Strategy – Building a Britain fit for the future, HM Government, 2017, https://www.gov.uk/…/system/…/industrial-strategy-white-paper-web-ready-version.pdf