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Summary of the LU Case: the Blackpool Innovation Catalyst

Location: Lancaster, England
Time-period: 2023-onwards
SDGs: 9, 11, 13
Decorative image depicting a landscape. A road is in the foreground. Fields are in the background. The sun is partially obscured behind clouds.
Image by Abe S (via Unsplash)

In GOGREEN, we define the green SDGs as the following SDGs: SDG 6, SDG 7, SDG 11, SDG 12, SDG 13, SDG 14, SDG 15

The Blackpool Innovation Catalyst was set up by LU to explore opportunities to create an innovative digital sector in the resort. The key idea is to build a cluster of ethically powered data centres which operate on renewable energy and redistribute excess energy into social heat networks using ground-breaking green technologies.

We aim to develop and put in place green technologies that can then be used for socially beneficial projects such as heating social housing or running public transport. The project team, led by Lancaster University and Blackpool Council, is bringing actors together from the university and across the public and private sector to explore how we might, collectively create a thriving digital ecosystem which can take advantage of Blackpool’s unique infrastructure to lay the foundations of a new and prosperous economy for Blackpool and surrounding areas.

This new and timely opportunity has been generated by the landing of the North Atlantic Loop at Blackpool, a next generation, subsea fibre cable system delivering a diverse, high-capacity network connection to USA and Northern Europe, meaning the resort is uniquely positioned to take advantage of ultra-fast internet speeds and super low latency, supporting future technologies such as robotics. Tony Doyle, the head of IT at Blackpool Council, was talking with LU representatives about the North Atlantic Loop and the expansion of the huge windfarm off the coast of Blackpool, wondering about the opportunities that these new socio-technical arrangements might create, in a way which could provide a real leg-up for Blackpool. This conversation LU to create the Innovation Catalyst as a mechanism (developed by Lancaster University), funded by the government’s Community Renewal Fund, to bring the relevant actors and expertise into a room to co-produce solutions to the diverse, place-based challenges that Blackpool faces.

Some of the ideas created as part of this catalyst could be transformational for Blackpool – not just in creating a thriving digital economy and high-value jobs in the town, but also helping those lower income families struggling with their bills and making a real difference in some really deprived communities.

The catalyst group included academic advisers, senior council officers, financiers and leaders in sustainable digital infrastructure projects, who together created a unique proposition for Blackpool, which was unveiled during a special symposium at Blackpool Conference and Exhibition Centre recently.

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