City Region Deal project puts Stirling and Clackmannanshire at the heart of global mission
An ambitious package of work to support sustainable jobs, growth and inward investment is officially underway, following a high-profile launch event in Clackmannanshire yesterday (Thursday 11th November).
Scotland’s International Environment Centre (SIEC) will drive the creation of a net-zero regional economy across the Forth Valley, unlocking new opportunities for employment and skills development, as Scotland makes the transition to cleaner, greener ways of working.
The Centre, which will be based at Forth Valley College in Alloa, is the first project to be launched as part of the Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal, with a combined investment of £22m from the UK and Scottish Governments, and additional funding from the University of Stirling and Clackmannanshire Council.
The City Region Deal is a £90.2m investment from the UK Government and Scottish Government in innovation and infrastructure that will drive inclusive economic growth throughout the region. Regional partners, including Clackmannanshire Council, Stirling Council, and the University of Stirling, will invest up to £123.8m, resulting in a Deal worth more than £214m, to be delivered over the next 10 to 15 years.
The launch event, which took place at Forth Valley College, Alloa, brought together leaders from the two local authorities and University, together with Iain Stewart MP, UK Government Minister for Scotland, and George Adam MSP, Scottish Government Minister for Parliamentary Business.
The Ministers heard how the initiative will support community wealth building through nurturing genuinely inclusive models of economic growth and skills development, supporting efforts to reduce poverty and inequality through pioneering new technologies, products, and services as part of the green economy.
SIEC builds on the University of Stirling’s global reputation for environmental science, and the Forth Valley’s established status as a hub for environmental and conservation activity in Scotland. Through bringing together academic researchers with partners from industry, government and the local community, the Centre will position the protection and enhancement of our natural resources as an enabler of economic prosperity and wellbeing.
Clackmannanshire Council Leader Cllr Ellen Forson said: "The launch of Scotland’s International Environment Centre, which will be based in Alloa, marks the start of the generational shift that we need here in Clackmannanshire. It will provide jobs and skills to inspire our young people to engage with industry as well as attract the businesses and create the opportunities that will help us make a successful transition to net-zero and create wealth that stays within the local economy.
"It is the platform for a more confident Clackmannanshire to drive forward our future ambitions for the wee county. Scotland’s International Environment Centre won't just be based in Clackmannanshire; it will deliver for Clackmannanshire, and as a Council, we are proud to be a partner in this innovative project."
SIEC is already leveraging in investment into the region, with the flagship Forth Environmental Resilience Array (Forth-ERA) project already underway. Forth-ERA brings together a combination of satellite and land-based environmental monitoring sensors to provide local industry, regulators, policymakers and communities with live environmental data and analytics.
The real-time data will enable the region’s rich and diverse economic base to make an evidence-based transition to net-zero ways of working, supporting adaptation and resilience in the face of climate change. The pioneering project, which was launched to an international audience at COP26, will provide an international exemplar of good practice, and position Stirling and Clackmannanshire at the forefront of discussions on the response to the climate emergency.
Another SIEC project is forestLAB – built on a 40-year partnership between the University of Stirling and researchers and policy makers in Gabon in Central Africa. Launched in collaboration with the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment (London School of Economics) and the African Conservation Development Group (ACDG), forestLAB will provide policymakers, investors and development practitioners with the data and tools required to create world-class models of natural ecosystems management that are environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.
Professor Sir Gerry McCormac, Principal of the University of Stirling, said: “The world’s climate challenge is our opportunity, and it is an opportunity that we are grasping with two hands. By harnessing the University of Stirling’s world-leading academic expertise, gaining insights from industry, and giving a voice to local communities, Scotland’s International Environment Centre will put sustainability at the heart of the region’s economic and environmental recovery.
“Not only will SIEC support jobs, growth and investment, but the approach we are taking will become a global exemplar of how we can work together to end our contribution to climate change within a generation”.
Ensuring that the region’s workforce is equipped with the skills and confidence to thrive in a climate-changed future is essential. The Young Pathfinders programme, established in partnership with Clackmannanshire Council, Alloa Academy, Alva Academy, Dollar Academy and Lornshill Academy, will empower young people across the region to have a strong voice in the development of the Centre, ensuring that the focus on employability and skills development fully reflect the requirements of future generations.
Scottish Government Minister for Parliamentary Business, George Adam MSP, said: “I’m pleased to see the launch of phase 1 of Scotland’s International Environment Centre. The Scottish Government has committed £17m to the project through the Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal and this a major step forward for the project and the University.
“Protecting our environment and the need to work towards reaching net zero is at the forefront of our minds, even more so during COP26, and Scotland’s International Environment Centre has the potential to support the type of innovation and collaboration which is essential to deliver on these our commitments to reach net zero.
“It’s also a major milestone for the City Region Deal and I look forward to seeing more exciting projects like this over the coming years across the region.”
UK Government Minister for Scotland, Iain Stewart MP, said: “This new centre will contribute to green ambitions around the world while unlocking local employment opportunities and assisting community development in Stirling and Clackmannanshire.
"The UK Government's £5m support for this project is part of £1.7bn we are investing right across Scotland to level up communities and build back better from the pandemic."
Cllr Scott Farmer, Co-Chair of the Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal Joint Committee, said: “This project will not only help to protect the environment but will bring jobs, skills and investment into this region. These are the pillars of our City Region Deal, and these foundations will help to build a brighter, greener future for the people who live, work and study here.”
Dr Ken Thomson OBE, Principal of Forth Valley College, said: “To have a hub for Scotland’s International Environment Centre based at our Alloa Campus is a great honour for Forth Valley College and we are delighted to be a partner. Forming part of the Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal, it will be one of the few projects based in Clackmannanshire, but given the significant focus on skills and the education of future generations, hosting it in the Alloa Campus Tower Suite is a natural fit. We are all very excited.”