By prioritising digital connectivity and access to real-time data, we will ensure that our homes, communities and businesses across the Midlands benefit from the significant opportunities an ultra-connected region has to offer; from better healthcare and education, to business growth. This is being underpinned by low-carbon, reliable sources of energy which will enable us to achieve our sustainable growth ambitions.
Benefitting from total digital connectivity
The Midlands Engine has strong foundations on which we can build the ultra-connected region that will be critical for future growth and prosperity.
Some parts of our region are currently being left behind in the digital connectivity revolution: full fibre is only available in 4.3% of premises compared to 7.6% in the rest of the UK. Addressing this will be a priority, alongside a focus on 5G networks. In fact, the West Midlands is the first UK multi-city 5G testbed paving the way for rollout across the UK and building on the already active testbed in Worcestershire.
We want residents and businesses to be able to access, share and use the data they need in every part of our region and much work is already underway to enable this. For instance, the £1.9 million ‘live lab’ project at Keele University will develop test and demonstrate how a smart highways network can be designed, maintained and extended to local roads. And of course, as a centre for regional knowledge and data, our Midlands Engine Economic Observatory also has a huge part to play.
Enabling a reliable source of low-carbon energy
Our drive to harness the opportunities presented by ultra-connectivity is underpinned by a serious commitment to tackling the energy challenge. Businesses must have reliable and clean energy if we are to grow sustainably, and as a region we are focused on accelerating research and delivering the energy solutions that both today’s businesses and tomorrow’s generation are demanding.
Key to this is the Energy Research Accelerator; the first truly embedded, cross-disciplinary research hub in the UK, drawing on the expertise and world-class facilities of our region’s universities. Its purpose is to undertake innovative research and demonstrate low carbon technologies that help shape the future of the region’s and the UK’s energy landscape.
As part of this:
- An innovative green energy trial at Keele University could pave the way to saving 6 million tonnes of CO2 emissions across the country every year
- At the Trent Basin, the UK’s first working sustainable community energy network is transforming local energy infrastructure and is aiming to roll out across the UK
- Two research centres for sustainable, low-carbon electrical and thermal energy technologies totalling £22m have been launched at the University of Warwick. These will drive the development, and scale-up of new battery chemistries from concept through to proven viability.
- A University of Birmingham-commissioned commercial demonstration plant is replacing coal-fired heating boilers with environmentally friendly materials. It has harnessed almost 30 million kilowatt hours of otherwise wasted wind power, and reduced CO2 emissions by around 10,000 tonnes – equivalent to 3,600 tonnes of coal – since 2016
Find out more about the Energy Research Accelerator.