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The Waterline Summit 2023 - Innovation and Collaboration: Shaping a Sustainable Humber

15th November 2023
12:00am - 12:00am
Aura Innovation Centre, HU13 0GD
Waterline 1

On the closing day of The Waterline Summit 2023 partners came together to talk about the value of innovation and collaboration in the Humber. Focussed on the opportunities presented particularly by Humber Freeport and Humber 2030 Vision, the Humber region's masterplan to decarbonise what is the UK's largest emitting industrial cluster, the panel discussed the successes and challenges forged by collaboration.

Host, Richard Gwilliam, UK BECCS Programme Director at Drax started the session by explaining more about the environment in which we operate and stating that net zero will not be achieved without working together.

Involved later in the discussion, Richard states that the last thing businesses want is disruption, politically or otherwise, and that a general election is a good opportunity to push the message out about the region.

Simon Green, Interim CEO of Humber Freeport gave an overview of how Humber Freeport has the potential to set the environment for investment, drive innovation through the innovation sub-group and ties with both regional Universities and get a financial boost through seed capital to spend on developing companies in the freeport, through R&D in both products and processes.

Moving onto the current position of the Humber Freeport, Simon shares that the success of the freeport has so far been tangible, and around £1bn worth of investment is starting to emerge. It's innovation-led investment in both new products and processes.

"There is no such thing as green business anymore; it's just business."

Simon praised the collaborative working of landowners which has allowed parcels of land to be created which suit investors' needs. If there is one thing the Humber Freeport project has succeeded on already it is creating and fostering an environment of collaboration.

Harry Jones, Freeports Programme Director, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities explained more about the freeports programme from the government's perspective. There are 12 freeports in the UK and the main objective is levelling up, choosing sites which need support in the country's journey to net zero.

"We need to target the things that this country is good at"

Harry praised the region's efforts and said that it has been exciting and humbling to see innovation and collaboration in practice, and that the government hoped to build on that through the freeports mechanism.

So far, the Humber Freeport stands at position 1 or 2 in the UK for investment. Harry's team has been working to improve policy and build on the success so far. Freeport benefits are enshrined in law and any change in political power over the coming months will not have a large impact on projects, stating that energy transition and levelling up are not projects that will go out of fashion any time soon.

Harry explained to the audience that in terms of employment, environment and planning that there isn't any deregulation, and that any schemes of this kind would continue to be locally-led. There are incentives for investors such as National Insurance paid for new employees. Harry approved of Simon's term about some of the media coverage being 'fact free'.

Explanation that the worries the region has about political instability and the potential involved in freeports are themes which come up around the UK, but Harry acknowledged that the Humber has a strong offering, particularly considering the lack of mayoral authority.

Jo Barnes, Managing Director of Sewell Estates told us more about the 212 acre site which will be soon developed into Yorkshire Energy Park, a location for which there is plans to build and develop companies in the circular economy, helped by the strategic location close to Saltend Chemicals Park and the potential to use waste and by-products. It's an exciting prospect but as Jo stated clearly, there is a need to update the electric grid - "We need more capacity"

She also pressed on the importance of labour power and the urgent need to train the next generation of workers.

Jo stated there has been a noticeable uptick in the amount of enquiries for Yorkshire Energy Park and the Freeport but an extension is badly needed to stop the prospective investor companies getting timed out of the benefits.

The priority at the moment is to get planning applications through and to make sure that the benefits of this development work goes all the way down the chain and companies are able to get the workers they need, and people in need of a job are able to get one.

Concerns were raised over the environmental impact of development work. Jo explained how only 40% of the land at Yorkshire Energy Park is being built on, with the rest set aside for space for protected species and for community amenity facilities. The plan is to reuse waste heat and water from Saltend, and also bring in vertical farming to aid food security.

Sewell Group have tripled their investment in 'gateway roles' and work experience has proven to be hugely important in making sure that all parts of society are included in the recruitment and employment process. Jo stated that Sewell Group had made some real finds but that taking on and supporting apprentices from challenging backgrounds can prove to be equally challenging. A little understanding goes a long way, but getting the right people on board isn't totally altruistic, it's vital for business survival.

Chris Gilbert, Humber Decarbonisation Project Manager at Phillips 66 talked about how their collaborations with others such as VPI Power has been successful, and that the success could be longer term with advice to "Play the long game, keep collaborating"

"We are seeing a lot of opportunity, the sooner we get clarity in this region the better"

Chris talked about the carbon capture project plans that Phillips 66 have ready and while they know how many people they will need in the next 5 or 6 years it's still hard to plan. The travelling workforce of engineers are busy working on other similar projects around the UK. The jobs that will be created by development of the Humber Freeport and projects outlined in Humber 2030 Vision will be skilled and well paid.

There was the acknowledgement that companies provide what people need, energy included and there is a need to take the public with us on any development.

Katie Hedges, Head of Membership & Low Carbon Strategy at CATCH praised the success of the Humber Industrial Cluster Plan stating it has been a fantastic opportunity to get the region's largest emitters in the same room. We do need to recognise that other clusters are doing similar things with similar projects. Offtake was stated as a strong oppportunity, as well as the region being a bedrock for hydrogen of all colours and types. We need to shout about it more.

Katie stressed that there are skills shortages in many different industries and that the construction and engineering industry was not an exception. Hundreds more skilled people will be needed to work on the new projects and training is essential. While we have the technology, the lack of clarity on timescales means it's difficult to know when to trigger the workforce response.

CATCH are continuing to work with schools to raise awareness of STEM careers and there are plans to double the amount of apprentices from 100 to 200. Katie is optimistic about the amount of young people who are interested and enthusiastic about a career in engineering.

Bill Walker, Chair of Future Humber closed the event with praise for all involved in The Waterline Summit and for those involved in the bringing together of Humber Freeport and Humber 2030 Vision and set the example of collaborative working. Thank you to the University of Hull and Aura Innovation Centre dubbed as "magnificent partners" and "fantastic hosts".

This was a well-received event with some great questions from the audience prompting much debate and enabling a wider range of people to know more about Humber Freeport and Humber 2030 Vision.

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Host: Richard Gwilliam

Richard is UK BECCS Programme Director at Drax and is responsible for overseeing the conversion of the UK’s largest power station to the world’s largest BECCS project.  BECCS – or Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage – is a scalable greenhouse gas removal technology that will remove CO2 from the atmosphere trapping it permanently underground and supporting the fight against climate change. 

Richard has over 20 year experience in promoting major infrastructure projects around the world and has worked on CCS for much of his career having previously undertaken roles at National Grid and in commercial consultancy.  In addition to his work at Drax, Richard is chair of the Humber Energy Board – a public/private sector board focused on delivering the decarbonisation of the UK’s largest industrial cluster.  He is also a Non-Executive Director at Hull & Humber Chamber of Commerce and a Board Director at Future Humber.

Katie Hedges

Working for CATCH since its inception in 1999, Katie has been instrumental in leading cluster engagement, developing and managing CATCH’s suite of networks and grant funded programmes.

Most recently securing £1.7million Innovate UK grant funding to develop the Humber Industrial Cluster Plan – in partnership with the HEY LEP and 8 industrial partners – a comprehensive plan for decarbonisation in the region, which will show how the Humber cluster can achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040.

With a Degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Bath, Katie has lived and worked in the Humber region for over 20 years

Chris Gilbert

Chris has 39 years industry experience, with 24 years at Phillips 66, starting at the Humber Refinery in 1999. Chris has had other leadership roles at the refinery in production planning and process engineering, as well as being involved in serval major projects. Prior to joining the company, Chris worked at Exxon; UOP, the process licensor; and a major engineering contractor. This experience included projects in the upstream, midstream and chemicals sectors, as well as refining. Chris graduated from University College London in 1984 with a degree in Chemical Engineering

Simon Green

Simon Green is the Interim CEO of Humber Freeport and Deputy Chief Executive of North Lincolnshire Council.

He has over 30 years’ experience in the field of development and corporate governance. Simon has worked for both public and private sector organisations throughout the Midlands, the North and abroad, and has overseen major projects including mixed use, housing, transport, energy and higher education.

More recently he has taken on corporate culture and governance roles and throughout his career has striven to build alignment and partnership working as the bedrock of achievement.

Jo Barnes

As MD of Sewell Estates, Jo heads up the estates collective of businesses under the wider Sewell Group, which is made up of Sewell Investments, Sewell Construction, Sewell Facilities Management, I&G, Shared Agenda, Community Ventures and Parallel Data Intelligence.

Jo has almost 30 years’ experience of working in property and regeneration across the North of England and Scotland. Following a 14-year career in the public sector, latterly as Economic Development Director of Hull Citybuild, she joined Sewell Group in 2008, initially as CEO of Hull Citycare. In 2012, Jo went on to establish Shared Agenda, a specialist estates consultancy that delivers services across the UK.

Jo, a Chartered Director, also represents Sewell on various company boards, including the education and regeneration vehicle Hull Esteem, and the joint venture behind the £200m Yorkshire Energy Park development, Hull Eco Park Limited. She is also a member of the new Humber Freeport Board.

Part employee owned, a Queen’s Award-winning company and a Sunday Times Top 100 Company to Work For, the Sewell Group is well known for championing social mobility to leave a positive legacy in the geographies that its various companies serve.

Harry Jones

Harry Jones is a major project leader with 18 years' track record designing and delivering complex and high-profile economic development projects and programmes in the UK and internationally. He has experience in regional development, infrastructure, regeneration, urban development, and special economic zones, and has built and led diverse, multitalented teams around the world.

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