Doncaster can be leading hub for low carbon industries

New study by McBains says low carbon heat, hydrogen, bioenergy and low carbon aviation sectors offer significant opportunities for inward investment into the City of Doncaster.

Doncaster can transform itself into a world-leading centre for low carbon sector industries – potentially attracting green technology businesses from across the globe and generating hundreds of new jobs and millions of pounds worth of investment in the region, according to a new study carried out for Doncaster Council.

The Low Carbon Sector Feasibility Study was carried out for Business Doncaster – the local authority’s inward investment body – by McBains, and sister company, Genecon, a placemaking and economics consultancy.

The authors of the study said that with the Government recently announcing a new strategy to develop thriving green industries, Doncaster is well placed to be at the heart of those ambitious plans.

The Low Carbon Sector Feasibility Study was commissioned by Business Doncaster to find out what opportunities are presented by the growth of low carbon sector industries and which green technology sub-sectors provide the best economic opportunities for Doncaster.

The study found the size and value of the low carbon sector in Doncaster currently makes up a small proportion of economic activity – accounting for less than 1% of employment in the Doncaster economy, as it does nationally, with a value of £150m per annum. But the report says these jobs are predominantly engaged in construction and manufacturing businesses, which represent the majority of low carbon employment nationally and are particular strengths of the wider Doncaster economy.


And by assessing green industry sub-sectors' expected growth nationally and Doncaster’s ability to attract this activity, the study identified four areas considered to offer the most promising avenues for investment:

  • Low carbon heat, such as heat pump manufacturing and R&D. To transition to a sustainable heating supply by 2050 (the UK government's target for net-zero), the UK must quickly adopt the use of low carbon heat technologies. One such technology is heat pumps, and the study says Doncaster’s pipeline of high-quality industrial development sites such as Doncaster North, GatewayEast and Unity Yorkshire, its position as a key road and logistics hub and relatively affordability of labour, place Doncaster well to market itself as a potential location for heat pump manufacturers to set up new sites. The report says Doncaster is well-placed to attract the likes of US, Japanese and German heat pump manufacturers, and the likely economic impact of successfully attracting a heat pump manufacturing facility to Doncaster would be the creation of 100 to 400 manufacturing jobs.

Alongside meeting the requirements of just a manufacturing facility, the region’s universities also are potential partner for R&D development facilities, while the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority’s historic investment support for R&D activities provides assurance of grant fund availability if required. If a heat pump manufacturer were to develop manufacturing and R&D facilities in Doncaster, the area would be well positioned to become a key anchor point for the development of a ‘zero carbon heat cluster’, leading to further inward investment opportunities, the study says.

  • Alternative fuels, including hydrogen. The successful development of a scaled-up domestic hydrogen industry represents a key strategic priority for the UK, but currently it is underdeveloped as an industry. The study says Doncaster has several comparative advantages which helps position it as being at the heart of this strategically important growth industry. For example, in the case of production, Doncaster has a large amount of installed renewable energy capacity, the existing presence of a key market leader in hydrogen production technology, and is in close proximity to regional centres of advanced research.

This is complemented by several significant research and development opportunities which exist in the use of redundant coal mines for hydrogen gas storage and the testing of mass network deployment through hydrogen blending across Doncaster’s many large-scale residential, commercial and mixed development sites, and in the piloting of road and rail decarbonisation through the exploitation of Doncaster’s strategic location.

  • Bioenergy. Once government policy is established through the publication of its Biomass Strategy, there will be an opportunity to assess where new bioenergy projects could be viable in Doncaster, the study says. The number of businesses already active in the sector means that there is a large pool of developers and investors who can be engaged for future projects.
  • Low carbon aviation. One of the most effective ways to deliver an increase in energy efficiency and reduce fuel consumption is in the reduction of the mass of an aircraft; a process known as ‘lightweighting.’ A proposal for the development of a Lightweighting UK project to be based at GatewayEast (AMRC Doncaster), home to Doncaster Sheffield Airport, complemented by the construction of an R&D facility, will unlock the potential for the development of new products and processes for the direct application into aviation and automotive manufacturing businesses. The development of this site could form the key anchor point for the establishment of a future innovation cluster at GatewayEast built around alternative fuels, battery technology, electrification, and lightweighting technology (wings and fuselage). A recent announcement by the low-carbon aviation company Hybrid Air Vehicles pointing to Doncaster as a potential home for its new Airlander 10 airship production facility would further catalyse the establishment of such a cluster and help position Doncaster at the very forefront of clean aviation research, manufacturing, and alternative fuels, the study says.


Tassos Kougionis, ESG Director at McBains, said:

“Like many towns and cities in the north of England, Doncaster has been affected by the decline of traditional industries over the last few decades.

“But with the race to net zero well and truly underway, this study shows Doncaster can maximise the opportunity to establish itself as a leading hub for low carbon industries.

“One of the big issues currently is how to ‘level up’ towns, cities and regions that have faced significant challenges over recent times in terms of underinvestment. But our report shows that Doncaster can remodel itself to be at the forefront of the green economy, bringing lasting benefits in terms of jobs and investment.

“In the UK alone, the potential economic benefits that could be unlocked on the journey to net zero are expected to support an additional two million ‘green’ jobs by 2030, with required capital investment needing to increase to some £50 billion per year. The Government recently published its Powering Up Britain strategy, setting out plans to build thriving green industries in Britain, and Doncaster is well placed to be at the heart of that.

“Low carbon heat, alternative fuels, bioenergy and low carbon aviation all offer promising avenues, and should form the principal focus for any future Low Carbon Sector Inward Investment Strategy.”


Although the study recognises the potential to attract new low carbon businesses to Doncaster, it also highlights barriers to growing the sector. For example, in the case of the heat pump industry, there is no sector-specific apprenticeship provision across the entire South Yorkshire region, and with only limited manufacturer training for reskilling and upskilling which is not sufficient to provide the necessary skills for heat pump system design and installation. The study says the lack of sufficient training opportunities for heat pump installers means that there is currently an inability of local businesses to capitalise on expanding demand.

The study also makes a number of recommendations the local authority could take forward, including establishing a virtual Doncaster Net Zero decarbonisation hub to provide information and resources and a platform for knowledge sharing; development of a low carbon business support strategy which clearly sets separate approaches for attracting businesses and growing businesses; and encouraging collaboration between education providers and businesses to design vocational courses for local skills development.


Cllr Glyn Jones, Deputy Mayor, Portfolio Holder for Housing and Business, said:

“I very much welcome the completion of the Low Carbon Sector Feasibility Study. The findings provide a strong and robust basis for Doncaster to attract further inward investment opportunities whilst ensuring a secure and fair transition to becoming a net zero city”.

“It is evident that Doncaster is well-placed to attract international investment in areas such as clean technologies including alternative fuel sources, low carbon heat, science and manufacturing and can remodel itself to be at the forefront of the green economy, bringing lasting benefits in terms of jobs and investment”.

“It is important that we are able to identify opportunities that enable us to work together to bring about benefit for the people of Doncaster and I look forward to working together on climate and sustainability projects and how these will start to make a real impact on our city.”