Place-based business models for Net Zero in Sussex. How do we make these happen and work for Sussex?

Achieving Net Zero has become a hot topic across many regions, cities and businesses in the UK. A focal point of discussion during COP 26, Net Zero is rapidly turning into a powerful imaginary of technologies, innovative solutions and possible futures at the local level. It forces re-examining how businesses operate locally; what social, economic and environmental value they produce; and how these can be captured locally? It pushes an agenda of new responsibilities for local authorities, utilities and businesses to think and act strategically about how they invest and what types of infrastructure they seek to develop. The Net Zero agenda can forge powerful new partnerships and ways of working across long established siloes of public and private, and competing policy agendas about supporting high tech solutions, conservation and growth.

Business models are seen as powerful vehicles for change at industrial, regional and household level. They will be key in helping to develop and deliver local solutions and services for Net Zero. For many stakeholders in Sussex, the big questions are what technical, social and environmental solutions can be developed? How these could be brought to market and made commercially viable? What natural advantages are there in Sussex to develop Net Zero products and services?

Working with local stakeholders, the project on Place-based business models for Net Zero aims to unpack i) the drivers for developing place-based solutions for Net Zero; ii) the necessary conditions (from technical solutions to social innovations) needed to develop such local solutions; and iii) the core characteristics of the place-based business models, developed in the context of Net Zero.

Specifically, the project seeks to study and contribute to the development of three, interlinked key areas for achieving Net Zero in Sussex: i) the development of a local hydrogen economy; ii) nature-based solutions; and iii) developing local skills for decarbonisation.  Building on both formal and informal activities within and across these three areas, the project will examine the drivers for the emergence of hydrogen economy and the Sussex-specific technical, social and environmental elements which converge into an innovative set of hydrogen-based local services and products.  Building on a wide range of work and activities in Sussex on marine biodiversity and coastal regeneration, the project will examine how a place-based focus on land and environmental management, planning and regulation fits with the principles of whole systems thinking underpinning facilitating Net Zero. The project also examines what are the range of necessary skills needed locally to support and develop innovative high tech and natural solutions like hydrogen and carbon offsetting through kelp farming. Focusing on the rapid advancement of digitalisation across sectors, building of collaborations and partnership, workforce resilience and equality, diversity and inclusion, the project seeks to examine what are the skills needed in Sussex to achieve Net Zero?

The project emerged through engagement with a wide group of Sussex-based stakeholders involved in efforts to decarbonise the region and will involve action-based participation and observation of Sussex-based initiatives and programs.

The project is led by Dr Ralitsa Hiteva, a Senior Research Fellow at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex, and involves Dr Giulia Mininni, also from SPRU. Both Ralitsa and Giulia are members of the Sussex Energy Group. The project runs from September 2021 until March 2023 and is funded by the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS).

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