OxFutures starts £3.2m project to boost innovative low carbon businesses
Oxford’s Low Carbon Hub has led a winning bid for £1.6m of European Regional Development funding that will be used to foster low carbon economic development in the county over the next three years. This funding will be matched with another £1.6m, the majority of which will come from six partners, which were also involved in the bid. The partners will work together to implement the project.
The low carbon sector is already an important part of Oxfordshire’s economy. Annually it accounts for 7% of Oxfordshire’s revenue, with 570 businesses earning over £1bn in sales. Through the project, known as OxFutures, the partners will increase the number of innovative low carbon businesses, ensuring that even more of the £1.5 billion that Oxfordshire spends annually on energy stays in the county.
OxFutures will increase renewable energy generation by facilitating the sharing of knowledge between academics, local authorities and small / medium enterprises (SMEs); encouraging networking between SMEs; and offering grants for new products, new start-ups and energy-efficiency measures. The result will be an improvement in air quality in the city, a reduction in energy bills and CO2 emissions and a boost to the local economy.
The project will build on the success of the first phase of OxFutures which originated as a partnership between Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council, and the Low Carbon Hub. During the first phase, a four-year EU-funded programme, £18 million of investments were leveraged into local renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.
The project partners will each play a vital role in OxFutures and have a strong history of working together:
The Low Carbon Hub is a social enterprise that develops community-owned renewable energy projects and supports low carbon groups in Oxfordshire. The Hub will manage the project funding and will be the first point of contact for local SMEs that want to apply for start-up funding or grants. Working alongside Bioregional, via a new networking centre called Oxfordshire GreenTech, it will also coordinate knowledge sharing between SMEs and the two universities with the goal of connecting more renewable energy across Oxfordshire.
Oxford City Council has ambitious plans to reduce the City’s carbon emissions by 40% by 2020. Its role in OxFutures will be to collaborate with SMEs and the two universities on Oxford’s transition to Electric Vehicles (EVs). Chargers will soon be installed across the city and the introduction of EVs will drastically improve air quality while encouraging renewables through providing a means of storing and utilising locally generated green energy.
Cherwell District Council is working with Bioregional, a charity and social enterprise that works with partners to create better places for people to live, work and do business within the natural limits of the planet - this is called One Planet Living. Together, they will be developing Oxfordshire GreenTech, a countywide business network which will support its members to create sustainable workplaces, logistics, products and services for a stronger, greener economy. Members will share knowledge, form partnerships and potentially work together on joint funding bids, and will have access to research from both universities.
Oxford Brookes University (OBU) will offer SMEs free energy audits; with any recommendations that come out of the audits being part-funded through grants accessed via the Low Carbon Hub. Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development in OBU will build on work already done in Bicester by developing a region-wide case study of its LEMUR energy demand model using the acclaimed DECoRuM carbon mapping model, which identifies areas with high levels of energy inefficient housing and retrofits homes to reduce household energy consumption. OISD will also share learning from its research on smart energy technologies (Project ERIC) with SMEs via GreenTech.
Oxford University’s ‘Oxford Martin Programme on Integrating Renewable Energy’ project investigates methods of integrating modern renewable energy technologies into national, regional and local grids. Through OxFutures, the university will use Oxfordshire as the first regional case study for this work with the goal of SMEs making this research a reality for the county.
SMEs wanting to register interest in joining Oxfordshire GreenTech, applying for grant funding and / or applying for a free energy audit should contact the Low Carbon Hub.
We are reaching a tipping point where the growth of renewables and advances in technology are combining to make green energy the most economically sensible choice as well as the right choice for the future of our planet. Through OxFutures we are bringing together some of the most important low carbon players in Oxfordshire to ensure the county benefits both financially and environmentally from this energy revolution.
Dr Barbara Hammond, MBE - Chief Executive, Low Carbon Hub
European Regional Development Fund: The project is receiving up to £1.6m of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for ERDF. Established by the European Union, ERDF funds help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding
This article first appeared on 14th July 2017 on the website of the Low Carbon Hub.