Environment, Food & Rural Affairs
This is a broad sector which covers several areas ranging from food and drink, agriculture and rural economy to the environment encompassing as low carbon, energy efficiency and sustainability.
The low carbon sector locally is estimated to have a market value of around £2 billion, employs 3,700 people in energy alone, with linked specialisms including solar panels, wind energy, recycling, sustainable building, offshore power and electric vehicle servicing. This is a rapidly growing sector as people become more aware and are looking for more green, energy-efficient processes, products and ways of working.
Leicester and Leicestershire has become a centre of excellence for the development of low carbon technology.The universities of De Montfort, Leicester, and Loughborough have some excellent low carbon research centres, with strengths in energy and fuel cell technology, building technologies and low emission vehicles. The independent Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) in Loughborough has also helped to position the area as a centre for renewable energy and energy research expertise and specialist consultancy services are on offer, grown out of original research at both De Montfort University and Loughborough University
Horiba MIRA Technology Park is an ideal base for businesses setting up specialist research and development centres in low carbon vehicle technology and autonomous vehicles, the purpose-built centre at Donington Park hosts the Formula-e championship, which sees electrically powered vehicles race worldwide for teams such Audi Sport, Andretti Autos and Virgin Racing.
The area is home to much of the National Forest and also has some specialisms in ‘smart grid’ development (local power networks that respond to peaks in power usage, saving electricity).
The links between agriculture and food and drink are strong, particularly in areas like Melton Mowbray, which is already world-renowned for its’ regional produce. Melton has been designated a pilot UK Food Enterprise Zone (FEZ) and this enables local producers and farmers to work in co-operation with their community to protect the environment and drive sustainable growth.
There are 13,200 people employed in food and drink manufacturing and the industry brings £600m into the local economy with a combination of larger businesses and smaller producers across a wide range of products from pies and curry to local beer, wine and gin.
Newly developed areas like the Leicester Food Park, provides high quality food manufacturing space with purpose-built units on a 1.5-acre site, supports new and established food businesses.
High-profile employers in this area include Pepsico (Walkers) in Beaumont Leys, which is the largest crisp factory in the world; Cott Beverages; Samworth Brothers; Everards; Pukka Pies; Big Bear Confectionary and Belvoir Fruit Farms.
Leicestershire has a distinctive rural geography which accounts for around a third of the county’s population (approx. 208,000) of which 80,500 residents live in villages, hamlets or isolated dwellings. In some districts such as Melton and Harborough this is much higher with approximately 46% and 71% living in rural areas, respectively
Rural Leicestershire is home to 9,360 businesses accounting for over 70,000 jobs. Therefore, 40% of businesses are in rural areas – a large proportion of which are micro and small enterprises.
Eighty per cent of the county’s land is used for agriculture and there are 5000 people employed in this industry.
The publicly-funded Leicestershire Rural Partnership (LRP) was established over 20 years ago to bring together public, private and voluntary stakeholders to improve services and support rural communities and businesses.