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Forestry innovation centre for UK with funding of £400 million

Stuart Goodall

Plans for a Forestry Innovation Centre covering the north of England and south of Scotland have been unveiled as part of a major funding package worth almost £400 million. The Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal is a collaboration between the UK Government, Scottish Government and five local authorities. Source: Timberbiz

It includes an initial £10 million (£5 million each from the UK and Scottish Governments) to “underpin the development of the rural economy” either side of the border.

“This is a BIG Deal for forestry and fantastic news for the sector on two levels. Firstly, Confor has been heavily involved in discussions with the entire forestry industry to ensure the exciting idea of a Forestry Innovation Centre made it into today’s document,” Stuart Goodall, Chief Executive of Confor, said.

“Secondly, the immediate £10 million to support rural economic development and to create a Natural Capital Innovation Zone is a great opportunity for the forestry sector to show how it can deliver multiple and integrated benefits in the Borderlands area.”

The BIG-Deal Heads of Terms document, which will be developed over the next 6-12 months into a detailed business case, states that both governments will work collaboratively with partners to establish the best way to deliver a challenge fund for businesses and land managers to trial environmentally friendly pilots of the Borderlands natural capital, advance sector strategies and measures to capture and analyse real time information to maximise product yield, minimise pollution, promote carbon capture and flood management. These interventions could form the development of a Natural Capital Innovation Zone across the Borderlands region.

“This is the language of the forestry sector and we will engage fully in getting a Natural Capital Innovation Zone up and running in the Borderlands – with forestry at its heart.” On the specific Forestry Innovation Centre proposal,” Mr Goodall said.

“Industry support was crucial in getting plans for the centre into the Heads of Terms and Confor will continue to lead discussions to drive this project forward.

“With tree planting targets smashed in Scotland and UK Forestry Minister David Rutley visiting Northumberland to discuss new planting later this month, this is a really positive time for forestry and wood processing in the Borderlands area.”

The Heads of Terms document says that the forestry and wood sector in the Borderlands is an asset to the region which can deliver substantial low carbon growth and contribute towards sustainable economic development.

Forestry and wood processing are a significant employers and contributors to the economic growth of the Borderlands region.

On the Forestry Innovation Centre, the Deal documents say it will “develop with the forestry sector a centre of excellence to showcase innovation that would improve productivity across the whole supply chain”.

“There is a lot of work ahead to develop plans for the centre, but we have had excellent engagement between Confor members, rural skills providers, public forestry bodies and other stakeholders – and I’m confident we can move forward to develop a plan that focuses on adding value and increasing productivity within our sector to benefit the economy and environment of the Borderlands region,” Mr Goodall said.

The Borderlands is home to more than one million people over a combined geography that comprises 10% of the UK landmass.