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Green Tech Conference 2023 – The Challenges and Technologies for Greater Manchester on the Journey to Net Zero

On the 16th of March, pro-Manchester hosted the Green Tech Conference 2023 in Manchester and welcomed a wide range of companies developing innovative technologies to lower emissions, reduce our carbon footprint and improve our environment. Amy House, Director of Green Economy - GC Business Growth Hub and Daniel Dickinson, Business Development Lead - Energy Innovation Agency shared their views on how is Manchester responding to the carbon challenge.

Climate change is a challenge faced by all mankind, with “a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future,” as mentioned in the latest report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the scientific body that advises the UN on rising temperatures. This “survival guide for humanity,” as described by UN secretary general Antonio Guterres, has indicated how to avoid the growing climate disaster – drastically reduce the reliance on fossil fuels with clean and sustainable energy generated by the latest technology.   

Greater Manchester is committed to becoming a carbon neutral region by 2038, which is well ahead of the government’s aim for the UK to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. That huge ambition brings exciting opportunities for innovation, upskilling, and economic growth.  

On the 16th of March, pro-Manchester hosted the Green Tech Conference 2023 at Circle Square, Oxford Road in Manchester, and welcomed a wide range of companies developing innovative technologies to lower emissions, reduce our carbon footprint and improve our environment.  

Throughout the conference, attendees heard from innovators, professional advisors, policymakers, and training providers to understand how everyone can benefit from these developments. The speakers included Amy House, Director of Green Economy - GC Business Growth Hub and Daniel Dickinson, Business Development Lead - Energy Innovation Agency 

Amy and Dan joined the discussion on “How is Manchester responding to the carbon challenge?” We caught up with them after the event  

Dan: Although we may be ahead of other regions, we are behind Manchester’s ambitious target. Greater Manchester’s strengths lie in its collaborative nature – coordinating support and activities will get new products onto the market faster. Our local authorities use innovations and clean tech to achieve their carbon neutral ambitions and work closely with universities and businesses.   

Amy: For example, The Growth Company’s Education and Skills team opened the Green Skills Academy in early 2023. The centre, in Trafford Park, is the first of its kind in the North of England. It will play a critical role in helping the UK achieve net zero carbon targets. The Academy will house industry-standard green technologies for businesses and individuals to gain the knowledge and skills needed to install and maintain them. Whether you are a business looking to future-proof your workforce or to support your future career, the Green Skills Academy is your one-stop campus to support your ambitions. 

What technology or support is still needed in the market? 

Amy: There are still a lot of businesses that are unaware of what green technology is available and how that could benefit them, not to mention the countless innovations that are yet to reach the wider market. More work is needed to build confidence in green tech so that business owners feel confident that the solar panel or energy management system they are investing in is the right one for their specific needs.  

At Green Economy, we have the purpose of growing and improving access to the green technologies and services sector. We represent green technologies and services businesses to increase their visibility, improve their competitiveness and provide access to new sales opportunities whilst working with end users to help them understand the market and the most appropriate solution for their operation. 

Dan: AI is moving into Green Tech, which can model your behaviour and show where your business can improve by finding efficiencies in existing systems like heating and air conditioning. Local energy has also seen developments whereby neighbours share power; the recent BBC article on excess heat from data centres warming swimming pools is a great case study. We’ve also experienced incremental changes – for example, solar has become significantly cheaper over the past 10 years and is more efficient. The Energy Innovation Agency assists innovators with exploiting and scaling up effective low-carbon energy innovations and supports end users across Greater Manchester to access the latest solutions.   

So, what does decarbonisation look like?  

Amy: When growing a business, consider the carbon impact. Aim to cut emissions, use energy management systems, track and understand what is happening in your business. The Green Tech sector is evolving and solutions like solar, heat pumps and energy management systems are becoming increasingly affordable, with quicker returns due to the rise in energy costs. Capital finance for these projects such as green loans needs to be simplified, the complexity of the application and eligibility process is a real barrier to converting businesses interested in decarbonising to take action.  

BeeNetZero is a regional campaign to make Greater Manchester the easiest place to be net zero, with a 10 step guide that businesses can take to start decarbonising. It then signposts local support to help make this a reality, including the Hub’s own Journey to Net Zero course. This free course is available to any individual in Greater Manchester and is a great starting point for any business. 

Dan also spoke on the “The challenges of developing new sustainable technologies in Greater Manchester” panel. He stressed that sustainable technology still relies on the people within businesses. 

Dan: It is vital that SMEs train existing staff and get buy-in to the journey to net zero for Greater Manchester to reach its target of net zero in 2038. Ultimately, Green Tech and more sustainable businesses will assist in retaining staff, attracting investment, saving money, and accelerating growth.   

There is a risk of people not understanding their target market and developing technology in isolation. The Energy Innovation Agency can help companies look at new markets, provide industry steer and facilitate introductions to end users. To help companies to understand that investing in green tech can drive down costs – case studies/partnerships/demonstrations are required to encourage Greater Manchester businesses to invest. Start-Ups / SMEs need to be forward thinking and know where they want to be. 

The Green Tech Conference is supported by sponsors Appleyard Lees, Bruntwood SciTech, Spencer Churchill & Manchester Metropolitan University and partnered with Bee Net Zero & BusinessCloud.   

The speakers discussed the benefits of Manchester and how the region can set an example – Manchester is perfect in size, with access to an international airport and leading universities. Siemens discussed how sustainability could be seen as the ‘5th’ industrial revolution – EAD (electrification, automation, and digitalisation) can be leveraged more exclusively. Technology is vital to achieving the sustainability agenda.   

The Green Innovation Trends approaching include:   

  • Sustainability and digitalisation.
  • Green Innovation / Green Tech.
  • Buildings and infrastructure innovation.
  • Decarbonisation.
  • Technology and what is needed, e.g., heat pumps / AI / green systems.
  • Efficiency measurements.  

Other topics that were discussed throughout the day included Smart Sustainability: how “Technology and AI can make a difference, Demystifying Tech”, “Green Tech success stories”, and “Inside Green Innovation: Progress Report 2022”.   

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