East Anglia Future 50

New leadership group to offer boost to East Anglia's clean technology companies

Enlight chief executive Gary Atkinson. 

Enlight chief executive Gary Atkinson. Picture: SIMON FINLAY

Regional businesses and leaders from the cleantech sector will come together this week to discuss strategies to promote and support green technologies.

The Cleantech East Sector Leadership Group hopes to provide a voice for businesses working with products or processes which reduce negative environmental impacts, through increased energy efficiency, use of sustainable resources, or environmental protection activities. The group includes representatives UEA’s Adapt Low Carbon Group and New Anglia LEP, low carbon investors, and businesses working with and developing green technologies.

The group says it aims to encourage innovation in the cleantech sector, offer support to connect knowledge, innovation and experience, and to provide a platform to build the supply chain.

Mark Aspinall, a director of disaster shelter manufacturer Extremis Technology, chairs Cleantech East and will host the leadership group’s first meeting.

He said: “Cleantech is all about reducing our impact on the environment to a point where it’s truly sustainable. At the same time, it needs to deliver good jobs and profitable businesses. This region has hundreds of companies and organisations trying to do just that and we need to give them the resources to be even more successful on the world stage.”

The group’s formation comes after the release of the government’s industrial strategy white paper, which recognised clean growth – supported by cleantech – as a sector of interest and key to positioning the UK as a global frontrunner in industry.

After its first meeting tomorrow the group will meet regularly to explore opportunities and challenges in the cleantech sector.

Weak infrastructure in Norfolk and Suffolk – including transport, a lack of focused higher education and poor communication between researchers and industry – has been identified as a major challenge, as well as a lack of specialised funding.

But organisers say regional challenges such as housing and infrastructure are “opening the door” for clean technologies, with the potential to spawn a cleantech hub like those taking root in other regions.

In the East of England cleantech sector 7,700 people are employed in clean energy and 64,000 in sustainable construction firms, and there are 55 advanced materials producers operating in the region.

‘Businesses can become stronger with peer support’

Enlight designs and manufactures technology which uses sensors to monitor environmental conditions, including traffic, temperature and air quality.

With the potential to aid energy consumption and pollution reduction, the technology is already being used in street lighting, including in the business’ home town of Loddon.

Gary Atkinson, chief executive of the EDP Business Award winning firm, said: “It is particularly difficult for start-ups today to make the transition from pilots to sustainable growth, so access to money, talent and opportunities is key.

“If we can encourage local tech businesses to connect, share their experience and even cross-pollinate then they each become stronger through the support of their peers. A vibrant innovation economy attracts the resources, investment and customers that startups need and the Cleantech East Sector Leadership Group can be a great catalyst for that.”

Head of finance and sustainability at Adnams in Southwold, Richard Carter, who sits on the leadership group, said: “It’s increasingly important for businesses to behave responsibly. There are clear cost savings to be had and it makes our business more resilient to changing economic and environmental issues.”

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