Zero carbon innovation centre gets green light

East Midlands Freeport has announced a major new development

Montage including aerial view of field with motorways, an aeroplane taking off, an industrial plant and the EM Freeport logo.

Major new plans for a multi-million pound East Midlands zero carbon innovation centre - aiming to transform cutting edge green research into commercial products - have been unveiled by East Midlands Freeport.

Today (30 Nov), the UK’s only inland Freeport also revealed it has attracted £150m of investment, signed off over £5m to fund the first two of seven initial projects designed to level up the region and created 200 new jobs as it celebrates significant progress made since March.

East Midlands Freeport plans to create tens-of-thousands of jobs, £8.9bn for the region’s economy and reinvest hundreds-of-millions of retained tax locally.


"Today marks a big milestone for East Midlands Freeport as we start to deliver on our objectives and invest in major projects like the innovation centre to boost skills and jobs across the region.

“It’s only nine months since we received Government approval but we’re building real momentum. We’ve seen significant interest from major investors, the extension of the window for businesses to claim tax benefits on our sites announced in the Autumn Statement and the Government’s £4.5bn Advanced Manufacturing Plan. This all combines to make East Midlands Freeport an extremely compelling place to invest.

“Creating the innovation centre is another piece of that puzzle. It will help to increase access for businesses to our world leading Universities’ R&D capabilities, create new technologies to tackle climate change boosting skills for future generations and increase the attractiveness of the region to investors. We’re already getting interest from global companies who recognise the strength of research and knowledge which resides in the East Midlands.”


The innovation centre will be delivered by the University of Nottingham and Loughborough University, who will be matching the East Midlands Freeport’s investment. As part of the University of Nottingham’s ambitious, science-based carbon reduction target to reach net zero by 2040, the innovation centre will provide the necessary technology and laboratories to progress research in electrification, hydrogen propulsion systems, and advanced manufacturing – for industry use.

Professor Tom Rodden, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange at the University of Nottingham, said: “With world-class facilities and research, this innovation centre will enable us to collaborate more closely with industry to accelerate the translation of zero carbon research into real-world solutions. This will not only help tackle the climate crisis but also deliver economic benefits to the East Midlands, as new businesses bring quality jobs to our region. The goal is for the East Midlands to become a global model for a flourishing zero carbon economy.”

Professor Dan Parsons, Loughborough University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, said: “We are delighted that funding has been secured for the new centre, which will help ensure the East Midlands is at the forefront of net zero carbon innovation. We look forward to working with our colleagues at the University of Nottingham, and bringing our combined strengths together in renewable energy and hydrogen to help accelerate progress towards achieving net zero emissions.”

The Freeport has also given the green light to a strategic transport assessment to increase investment and make improvements in and around junction 24 of the M1 in partnership with Midlands Connect.

The Freeport CEO made the announcements at the 2023 Midlands Energy Summit, hosted by East Midlands Chamber of Commerce and the University of Nottingham, which explored how businesses, academia and policy makers can come together to ensure that clean growth underpins the future economic landscape.

East Midlands Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles said: “East Midlands Freeport has the potential to be a game-changer for our region by tapping into existing economic strengths and developing new sectors that will put us at the heart of the UK’s green industrial strategy.

“To achieve this, we need to ensure the world-class research being conducted in our universities is turned into tangible products that can provide real-life solutions to global challenges, while building a highly-skilled workforce to be the engine that drives these forward.

“The East Midlands zero carbon innovation centre is therefore a hugely exciting step forward in the freeport’s progression and giving our members first sight of this at our Midlands Energy Summit illustrated the influential role our region’s business community can play.”


Find out more

East Midlands Freeport offers strategic development land at three sites - East Midlands Airport and Gateway Industrial Cluster, East Midlands Intermodal Park and the Ratcliffe on Soar Power Station redevelopment site. 

East Midlands Freeport received formal Government approval in March 2023. As the only inland UK Freeport with an airport at its heart, it offers a unique opportunity to:

  • Attract international investment to create tens of thousands of jobs
  • Reinvest hundreds of millions of pounds across the East Midlands Freeport zone
  • Create targeted innovation programmes in partnership with region’s universities

Its air, road and rail connections are unrivalled – with fast and efficient links to 70% of the world’s major cities, 91% of the UK population within a four-hour drive and access to 18 major freight rail lines, East Midlands Freeport is the place to locate.

The East Midlands is one of the most economically vibrant parts of the UK – home to 3.3m people, including a skilled and dynamic workforce, a host of renowned global companies, six leading universities and other internationally important educational institutions.





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