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  • Writer's pictureDeclan Turner

Strategic vision, innovation, and skills; how northern Devon is using clean maritime for economic development and addressing social mobility challenges.

In January 2023 Torridge Council secured £15.6m through the Levelling Up Fund (LUF). This funding will support the development of the Appledore Clean Maritime Innovation Centre (ACMIC), which is looking to establish Torridge and wider northern Devon as a leading global research and development destination for innovation in clean maritime technology and supporting industries, as well as providing a catalyst for jobs and economic regeneration in the area.

Wavehill are undertaking the ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the ACMIC. It is a multi-year process and impact evaluation. Programme level baseline analysis is being completed now, with a process evaluation in 2025/26 when the centre is built, and annual impact evaluations up until to 2030. This will help show the value of the initiative as well as provide accountability for the LUF issued by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). Our work is also exploring the local skills requirements and provision as the site will host the Centre for Future Clean Mobility from the University of Exeter, as well as having representation from the University of Plymouth and working closely to provide access and inspiration to the local college, Petroc.

At the same time the evaluation will also benchmark and track the impact of the project on the state of aspiration and pride of place locally, ensuring that the community truly benefits from the investment and the economic growth ahead.

Strategic vision

These are exciting times for the region of North Devon and Torridge on a maritime front. In addition to the ACMIC in Appledore, there are numerous initiatives and opportunities in northern Devon to support clean energy, sustainability, and net zero. These include the resurgence of the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Appledore, The Crown Estate's plans to lease seabed in the Celtic Sea for an initial 4.5GW of Floating Offshore Wind farms (FLOW), which would make those leases the world’s largest currently, the largest MMO licenced seaweed farm in the UK off the shores of Hartland and significant private sector interest around future green hydrogen deployment.

With the University Centre at Petroc in Barnstaple heavily involved to strengthen skills pipelines for all ages, including through the newly opened Environmental Space Living Lab from the Satellite Applications Catapult and the fact that it forms the engineering focus of the South West Institute of Technology, there are now a range of innovative assets to support local growth.

To support and maximise these and other schemes Torridge and North Devon District Councils have also contracted Wavehill to deliver a clean maritime growth strategy. Our work will set the vision and provide a detailed strategic business case that will enable the Councils to demonstrate the rationale for investment in the clean maritime sector across the northern Devon and wider Heart of the South West LEP region. This will be strengthened by the Levelling Up Partnership which Torridge has formed with central Government to hasten transformative opportunities across the area. Together these activities in northern Devon will provide serious signals for future inward investment to help regenerate and drive forward the local area and wider region, addressing long-standing deprivation challenges by being at the heart of the future Net Zero blue-green economy.


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