To support growth in low carbon businesses, cities should first and foremost create an environment where businesses are able to grow. Working with local chambers of commerce, local networks, Business Improvement Districts and other partners helps councils understand and learn from their business base about what’s important to them.
The case studies highlighted in this section are developing and delivering services in response to the specific challenges that many low carbon businesses experience in relation to regulation, research, innovation and production. They have addressed these challenges by:
- Developing networks for knowledge sharing and connecting supply chains;
- Raising industry profile for attracting inward investment;
- Identifying and helping supply the skills local green businesses need to succeed.
Case study 1: South West, England and London – Business support to foster growing green businesses
Business support networks such as Regen Southwest and Low Carbon Southwest provide a platform for local businesses and non-profit partners to work with one another. Bath and North East Somerset Council, Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire Council are also all partners and play a key role in networking, advice and strategy.
Supporting growth without picking winners
Rather than choosing one sector or a few firms, Low Carbon Southwest works with businesses from construction, renewable energy and professional services to share information and build networks across sectors.10 These organisations use their close links with the local councils to communicate the challenges they face and how local government can help overcome them, through for example networking events or regular surveys.
Raising the profile of the industry and region: building scale and marketing investment opportunities
By joining up related businesses across the wider region, Regen South West and Low Carbon South West are able to build enough impetus to attract investors and build supply chains. For instance, Low Carbon Southwest organises members to attend trade missions and build trade relationships for the region. Regen South West members have also had opportunities to talk with key policy makers such as the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and Chief Executive of the Office of Renewable Energy Deployment at DECC.11
Building trust and sharing knowledge
Close working relationships between councils and firms in the south west has opened up new business opportunities, improved business confidence, reduced longterm planning risks and created momentum for building the sector in the local economy. In turn, business groups have helped councils make informed decisions about their economic development frameworks and understand the current and future status of green sectors. These working relationships have allowed for knowledge and experience to be shared, encouraging better dialogue and understanding.
Regen South West helps develop the skills for its member firms by working with local FE colleges and universities to supply workers with the skills they need. For example, Regen South West partners work with the University of Bristol to support research networks within the cluster as it has a strong research expertise in low carbon technologies. Meanwhile the University of West of England has strong business links so Regen South West is working with them to deliver SME support and business skills programmes.12 The relationships work as they identify expertise in local institutions and capitalise on existing strengths.
Other cities are also working with schools, FE colleges and local training programmes to develop skills where businesses have identified a deficit. For example, a new business support organisation, the London Clean Tech Cluster, has developed a mentor programme to match growing low carbon firms with mentors to help develop the skills base within the organisation. They have already successfully matched 20 mentors with clean tech firms to help them get to the next level.12 Similarly, Low Carbon South West supports Teen Tech, a programme to inspire teenagers to pursue career choices in science, engineering and technology.
Key questions for cities
- What new skills and trades will be required to carry out low carbon programmes (e.g. Green Deals) and how can these be supported locally?
- What partnerships can local government form with business support providers to make these programmes work effectively for business?
- What can cities do to ensure they are creating the most supportive environment for local low carbon businesses?
- What are the challenges identified by low carbon businesses, how can cities target support to help them overcome these?
Case study 2: One to watch | Belfast, UK – Responding to local economic challenges
Through its close links with local businesses, Belfast City Council identified that fuel costs are a barrier for businesses in the city, as energy costs are some of the highest in the UK.14 To help companies reduce these costs and support a small, but growing, energy cluster, the City Council is developing a Sustainable Energy Business Park.
The business park will be located on a 65 acre landfill site. The gases produced from this waste will be used for energy alongside solar and wind power, which will be sold to the tenants at a discounted rate. To help the green energy sector, the business park will also host part of Queens University’s Centre for Advanced Sustainability to further support research, innovation and knowledge sharing in the park.
The Belfast Green Energy Business Park brings together a close-knit group of businesses and localises the solution to high energy costs whilst minimising emissions. The City assists by providing planning support and in marketing the park’s development. Most importantly, the park is developing the local skills and networks these businesses need to develop the sector organically.