Lowestoft-based OrbisEnergy launches technology zone bid

Bosses of Lowestoft-based OrbisEnergy yesterday launched a bid for a slice of �200m of government cash to create a technology innovation centre aimed at cementing East Anglia's position as a leading research centre for the renewable energy industry.

Ministers want to establish an elite network of at least six technology and innovation centres over the next four years, aimed a creating high-level research and development hubs to generate ideas and also turn them into commercial reality.

Funding would come via the Technology Strategy Board, which is overseeing the centres on behalf of the government; private sector R&D groups; and public/private framework contracts or other European sources.

Backed by renewable energy players such ScottishPower Renewables, Vattenfall and SSE Renewables, the OrbisEnergy proposal also has the support of the University of East Anglia, University Campus Suffolk, Essex University and Durham as well as specialist research institutes such as the Cefas laboratories, TWI and a new UK Centre for Innovative Manufacturing based at Cranfield University.

And with the government recently approving a bid to create an enterprise zone in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft based around the energy industry, the innovation centre, which has the potential to attract up to 150 jobs, is seen as the logical next step to maximising the potential of the renewable industry.

The bid comes as 21 Norfolk and Suffolk companies have been in Aberdeen this week seeking new business opportunities at the Offshore Europe event.

But competition is likely to be fierce with rival bids expected from Glasgow, Strathclyde, the Humber, and the North-East.

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John Balch, strategic director at OrbisEnergy said 'Of the 15GW of offshore wind power consented within the UK, more than 50pc have secured grid connection offers on the East Anglian coastline. This puts the area at the heart of the UK's offshore wind industry, with the southern North Sea emerging as the international proving ground for large-scale offshore renewables.

Judy Terry, portfolio holder for the economy and skills at Suffolk County Council, said: 'The development of a technology and innovation centre for offshore renewables is a real opportunity for East Anglia. OrbisEnergy already has many of the component parts of the proposed TIC model and we will be working hard to try and secure this investment in the region.

'We are already positioning OrbisEnergy and East Anglia as key drivers for such a centre building on the area's rich history in offshore operations, innovation and technology, coupled with world class credentials in automotive design, engineering and manufacturing which give East Anglia a unique offering.'

Waveney MP Peter Aldous, said the innovation centre would complement the forthcoming enterprise zone.

'We know that offshore renewables is a key growth sector for the economy and we are committed to ensuring companies across East Anglia benefit from this huge opportunity,' he said.

The first stage of the application process is underway with detailed Expressions of Interest, and successful applicants being called back in early October to form appropriate consortia to develop full business plans with the Centre hopefully becoming operational in by late Spring 2012.