An old Michelin tire production factory in Dundee, Scotland closed last year due to its inability to compete on the international market. The space has been reinvented as a cutting-edge site for shaping the skills and technologies needed to drive the low-carbon economy of the future.
As testament to what can happen when industry, government and academia come together, the disused factory is now home to the Michelin Scotland Innovation Parc (MSIP). The organization aims to become a leading center for sustainable mobility and decarbonization solutions for the transport sector.
This Scottish site is powering the low-carbon economy
“It took a crisis to start the ball rolling,” recalled Greig Coull, CEO of MSIP, during a live virtual tour of the site hosted by the Climate Group’s ZEV Community during Climate Week NYC. “Michelin lost the manufacturing plant. But very quickly it galvanized all the stakeholders, Scottish Enterprise, Dundee City Council and Michelin to pull a phoenix out of the ashes.”
The MSIP provides workshop and manufacturing space for start-ups and innovation labs for prototyping, testing and perfecting decarbonization solutions. Innovative start-ups like Arcola Energy, a hydrogen fuel cell integrator, and MEP Technologies, which makes bespoke battery systems for demanding transport applications, already call the Parc home.
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“People are being enlightened by the transport opportunities they've now got—transport as a service, smaller vehicles for last mile, e-bicycles, e-scooters,” said Stuart Morrison, CEO of MEP Technologies. “We're developing battery packs that support energy storage.”
The Parc runs business accelerator cohorts with 19 companies focused on decarbonization, hydropower, battery technology, urban mobility and more.
New technologies mean new skills are needed
A unique feature at the MSIP is its Skills Academy. This partnership between Dundee & Angus College, Abertay University, the University of Dundee, the University of St. Andrews and others fosters technology scale-up, manufacturing and skills development. The program is planning an intake of 250 students every year. These innovators of tomorrow will be trained in areas such as low-carbon transport, hydrogen, robotics automation, energy efficiency, insulation and micro-renewables.
“It's not just academic partners, but also skills and development agencies, all pulling together to maximize recruitment and training support for companies from entry level through to Ph.D.,” said Jim Brown, Strategic Projects Director at Dundee & Angus College.
Tire factory employees are reskilling for a better future
The MSIP has given former Michelin tire factory employee Callum Stewart, an engineering technician, the opportunity to reskill in new technologies like hydrogen fuel cells. “Six months ago, Callum knew nothing about hydrogen,” said Dr. Ben Todd, CEO of Arcola Energy. “It's inspiring to see him grow, and that's something we really want to see come out of the Skills Academy.”
MSIP is helping Scotland address the global climate emergency
Arcola uses green hydrogen fuel cells to decarbonize fleets of heavy duty vehicles, including trains, buses and garbage trucks, which account for 25% of the UK's road transport CO2 emissions. It has opened a new manufacturing and development facility at MSIP, where it can draw on Michelin's previous workforce as well as talent coming through the Skills Academy pipeline. “The combination of external technology support, work space, skills and links into government policy is exactly what is needed to move these technologies forward more quickly,” Todd noted.
The MSIP even has its own wind turbines, which will fuel the production of green hydrogen at a planned hydrogen refueling station. Solar panels also feed into the closed green loop, and a waste-to-power plant provides “behind-the-wire” electricity, reducing costs for tenants and helping them achieve their carbon reduction targets.
The scale of the efforts needed to protect the planet and humanity cannot be understated
“We're living in a global climate emergency,” said Scotland's Transport Minister Graeme Dey. “With just under six weeks to go until Glasgow hosts COP26, it is one of the last opportunities to protect the planet and humanity from the devastating consequences of climate change.”
The scale of transformation required through decarbonization is unprecedented, Dey warned. Scottish climate legislation is working to ensure it is at the forefront of the transition to a sustainable net zero economy. “We're a country with a rich industrial heritage that wants to build on the strength of its workforce,” he said. “Projects like the MSIP are an example of how industrial sites and a skilled local workforce can evolve to become a pivotal part of the low-carbon economy.”
MSIP is planning an “electrifying” showcase during COP26
At COP26, the MSIP will showcase 25 technology demonstrators and 22 exhibitors on indoor and outdoor test tracks. The Parc is also a stopover for the EV Rally Of Scotland, which is set to “electrify” COP26 with a demonstration of Scottish electric vehicle charging infrastructure and innovative vehicle technology.
“We have the infrastructure, staff and the energy to make a significant contribution to Scotland's 2045 net zero decarbonization targets,” said Coull.
Fruitful collaborative and educational opportunities at MSIP abound
Coull believes companies are relocating to the MSIP because its mission is clear, simple and focused. “Scotland has very ambitious net zero targets which attracts a lot of companies,” he explained. “Many like-minded companies together in one place creates collaboration opportunities. Off-grid energy provision allows companies to pursue their net zero targets. The Skills Academy is also a unique part of our offer.”