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Northern digital infrastructure 'must improve'

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Digital infrastructure in the North of England must improve to unlock economic potential as rural areas lag behind the rest of the country, a report has found.

Most major northern cities are well connected but rural areas are “left behind” which is damaging to an economy that is “more diverse and dynamic than is often proposed”, IPPR’s State of the North report highlighted.

Superfast broadband speeds can be accessed by 90% of businesses in the UK.  However Sheffield and Northumberland have a rate of 86%, while the rate is 83% in Cumbria and North Yorkshire.

Improving connectivity in order to fulfil economic potential is particularly important in the wake of Brexit, the report emphasised, as the north’s economy is more dependent on EU markets than the rest of the UK.

The report, called State of the North: The Millennial Powerhouse, made recommendations on how “millenials” and “Generation Z”  can “unlock northern potential” more effectively than previous generations.

It said the energy sector is a strength to the Northern economy with the potential to generate £15bn a year, create 100,000 green jobs in the North and “transform” the UK’s energy economy.

The north of England has salt caverns that can store hydrogen, deep mine water heating systems and the waste heat that industrial clusters generate, which are unique to the North’s geological assets.

It cites the H21 Leeds City Gate project as an example. The project has explored converting the city’s gas network from natural gas to 100% hydrogen, which could reduce emissions from heat by 73%.

The IPPR report said it will have economic benefits such as creating a supply chain “in which there are many northern companies”.


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