First for innovation – introducing Lowestoft’s marine and energy clusters

Lowestoft – Britain’s most easterly town – is home to two of our region’s innovation clusters

The UK’s Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) employs 400 scientists at its headquarters in the town and the OrbisEnergy clean energy business hub at the town’s PowerPark is home to businesses helping to drive the UK’s energy transition. We find out what being based here means to them. 

CEFAS’ mission is to keep seas, oceans and rivers healthy and productive and our seafood safe and sustainable. The scientists at CEFAS do this by conducting world-leading research into the global problems of climate change, marine litter, over-fishing and pollution. Their data and expert advice is provided to policy makers in the UK government and overseas partners who are working to secure a sustainable blue future for all. 

Science Director David Carlin says: “Although we work around the world, we are committed to the East of England and have just invested £16m in redeveloping our HQ as an advanced centre for applied marine science. This project, which received £1.4m from the New Anglia LEP’s Growth Deal, supports the region’s ambitions to be a centre for life and environmental sciences. It will also help make Lowestoft a marine science and offshore wind energy hub.

“We work closely with local colleges and universities to support STEM students and now aim to offer around 12-15 apprenticeships each year. Our work with the University of East Anglia goes back 55 years and we recently established a Collaborative Centre for Sustainable Use of the Seas (CCSUS) on their campus. We are also developing research projects with University of Suffolk into eco-toxicology and other topics. 

“The East of England is an excellent location because of its high concentration of biotech scientists. There are nationally important clusters not just here in Lowestoft but also on the Norwich Research Park, in our successful agri-food businesses and, of course, in Cambridge. Combine that with world leading data scientists and developers of cutting-edge digital technologies at Adastral Park, engineering at Hethel Innovation and you have an ecosystem capable of tackling global challenges, particularly the causes and effects of climate change. 

“This clustering is vital for innovation because it enables multi-disciplinary collaborations that can turn scientific research into beneficial outcomes. For instance, we have provided EDF Energy with fundamental research into the local marine habitat for over 10 years to help them develop their new nuclear programme at Sizewell in the most sustainable way possible. 

"We have also worked with the offshore energy sector over the last 15 years, looking at issues such as the amount of scouring around installations This work aligns with our role bringing together industry, academia and civil society to share innovative ideas for sustainable blue-green economic development. It’s vital we have coherent policies to protect our marine, freshwater and coastal environments. At the same time, we need to solve the challenge of creating a clean growth future for all.” 

From marine science to energy transition, the Norfolk & Suffolk coast is home to the full mix of energy supply, generation to distribution, and the talented businesses that service it. Since the arrival of North Sea gas at Bacton and nuclear power at Sizewell, the ports of Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth have become nationally important engineering and logistics hubs for the energy industry. 

Now they are benefiting from the rapid growth in offshore wind farms in our coastal waters – and an increasing number of solar plants in our rural heartlands. Wind now meets around 30% of the UK’s electricity needs – and the East of England generates around 43% of that. The national and regional share is set to grow thanks to an ambitious pipeline of projects up to 2030. 

In the East of England, these include 30% of UK projects with planning consent granted and nearly 60% of UK projects that have submitted applications to the Crown Estates. 

Ian Pease, Manager at OrbisEnergy, said: “OrbisEnergy stands at the heart of our clean growth community and is committed to supporting its development. Our tenants (physical and virtual) include leading energy related companies as well as the UK’s Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult (ORE) regional innovation office. Together with ORE Catapult and industry leaders, including the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR), we are looking to accelerate the adoption of new technologies, such as battery storage, energy integration, and carbon capture and storage. 

“We are also working with local colleges to strengthen the region’s engineering skills and knowledge base across energy production, conservation and efficiency. Decarbonising industry, electrifying transport, and building supporting infrastructure, could create hundreds of thousands of well-paid jobs across the UK. Our ambition is for the workforce in the East of England to fill many of them.”

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