Pro-Vice-Chancellor leads Northern bid to drive green recovery from COVID-19

The N8 Research Partnership, the strategic collaboration of eight research-intensive universities in the North, has joined forces with the Northern Powerhouse Partnership to submit a representation to the 2020 Comprehensive Spending Review.

Net Zero North (NzN) will connect the Northern Powerhouse’s science and research capabilities, skills providers and businesses to forge a green recovery from Covid-19 while simultaneously putting the UK at the forefront at the global drive for net zero carbon.

The submission is being led by Professor Anthony Hollander, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research & Impact at the University of Liverpool and chair of the N8 Strategic Executive Group.

He said: “NzN is a chance for the N8 Universities to tackle carbon emissions at scale, drive levelling up by building the new green economy and give something back to the people of the North of England. I’m incredibly proud of the intense collaborative work by colleagues that has allowed us to build such a strong submission to the Comprehensive Spending Review.”

Three parallel, pan-Northern projects will accelerate economic growth by creating new jobs in the green economy and upskilling the workforces in economically challenging towns, cities and rural and coastal locations, supporting firms to innovate and adopt low carbon business models while creating large numbers of meaningful employment opportunities:

  • Sustainable Hydrogen Economy will support the economic regeneration of the North by establishing the region as a testbed for sustainable hydrogen use by industry; including green transport, industrial decarbonisation, and heating of residential and commercial buildings.
  • Grow Smarter will deliver a vision for a thriving, integrated net-zero landscape of the future – driving innovation and carbon-efficient land management in the rural economy, including natural carbon capture, regenerative agriculture, and bio-derived materials.
  • Skills and Productivity will build a green-skills ladder promoting upskilling of the Northern workforce for a sustainable and resource-efficient society. The NzN Skills Alliance will see the establishment of skills hubs in Teesside (Hydrogen) and Eden North/Morecambe (Grow Smarter).

The representation details why the North is the ideal location to the lead the UK’s transition to a net zero economy, and how £300m of government investment will unlock the potential represented by the region’s mix of industries, science and research capabilities, infrastructure and environmental assets.

Professor Chris Day, chair of the N8 Research Partnership and Vice-Chancellor of Newcastle University said: “It’s been very rewarding to collaborate with the Northern Powerhouse Partnership and our other partners on our submission to the Comprehensive Spending Review. Net Zero North will allow our region to lead the way for the UK’s sustainable, economically fairer future. Through government investment, it will enable Northern businesses to develop their offerings so they can flourish in new market sectors, while driving the levelling up agenda by supporting innovation-led growth in the areas where it is most needed.”

Dr Annette Bramley, director of the N8 Research Partnership, said: “The seismic impact of Covid-19 has exacerbated the economic challenges faced in many left behind places throughout the North. Tackling these difficulties in combination with the urgent need to transition to net zero presents us with a rare opportunity to rethink many aspects of how our society operates. Net Zero North is a credible, productivity enhancing initiative that draws on the specialisms and assets of the Northern Powerhouse economy – it has the potential to make a real difference to the economy of the North and create sustainable jobs in our towns, cities, rural and coastal communities.

“It draws together key themes for several government departments and builds on existing partnerships that can deliver at pace and scale to shift the dial towards net zero carbon and provide skills and jobs for levelling up the economy.”

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “Now is the perfect opportunity to recalibrate our economy and invest in sustainable industries and renewable energy sources, working towards decarbonisation and net zero. There’s a huge opportunity for businesses and leaders across the North to work with our world-leading research and science capabilities to work on innovations which drive the green economy. 

“We wrote to the Chancellor on Thursday to call for more investment and devolved powers in post-16 skills budgets. This will give Metro Mayors and local leaders in the North the ability to help reskill and retrain workers in green industries, providing them with more secure, better-paid skilled jobs – whilst furthering a sustainable recovery.”