In brief

In brief

  • Accenture and Microsoft explored the role of industrial clusters in helping the UK transition to net-zero.
  • Accenture has estimated the UK’s six industrial clusters could slash industrial greenhouse gas emissions by up to 40% by 2030.
  • The key is the interconnectedness within clusters: partnership, business transformation and digital innovation can all accelerate decarbonisation.

Decarbonising UK industry for a more sustainable future

The “green industrial revolution” is underway. The UK Government has committed to achieving net-zero by 2050 and cutting emissions by 78 per cent by 2035. These are ambitious goals, and with new infrastructure, new business models, new partnerships, new energy markets, and unknown costs, the journey is uncharted and complex.

Much work is needed. The time for action is now.

Unlocking industrial decarbonisation

Industrial clusters – co-located, energy-intensive industrial centres – are critical to the UK’s low-carbon transition.

The country’s six clusters are responsible for half of its industrial greenhouse gas emissions. Prioritising their decarbonisation presents a tremendous opportunity to unlock significant environmental, economic and societal gains.


Globally, industry is responsible for 30 per cent of total global carbon emissions.


UK industry contributes around 16 per cent of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Industrial clusters are responsible for around half of this.


A combination of approaches could potentially reduce industrial greenhouse gas emissions by up to 40 per cent by 2030.

An integrated approach to net-zero

Systemic change is required if industry is to meet the UK's net-zero goals.

An integrated approach based on partnership, business transformation, cloud-based digital innovation, and open data could unlock monumental reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.


Today’s industrial terrain no longer favours siloed thinking around innovation. As highly interdependent entities, industrial clusters lend themselves well to collaborative working. Collaboration enables cluster alignment on needs, goals, and roadmaps for achieving net-zero targets.

Creating multi-stakeholder cross-industry partnerships is vital in devising, funding, and delivering complex emissions-reduction solutions. Partners that map out business models and agree on risk-sharing initiatives can scale more effectively and achieve milestones faster.

Digital transformation

The UK Government has established that digitalisation not only helps industry to decarbonise, it also accelerates growth. Networked artificial intelligence (AI) systems, internet of things (IoT) devices, digital twins and smart-grid solutions can optimise and enhance existing infrastructure, while providing detailed insights into processes.

At industrial plants, IoT devices placed around facilities can feed in data via the cloud to enhance a digital twin’s real-time operational model and enable AI-powered process analytics that help cut carbon. Connected data can also help inform infrastructure and system design. As a result, these infrastructure assets can work harder and longer, reducing their total lifetime cost.

"The adoption of digitalisation technologies could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 4.5% while increasing manufacturing growth between 1.5% and 3% a year."

— UK Government industrial strategy 2021

A net-zero workforce

Radical innovation and systemic transformation are best supported by highly agile, dynamic teams able to make large-scale decarbonisation a reality. Digitally literate, diverse teams can help accelerate innovation and infrastructure transformation. Instinctively collaborative, these teams will work across functions, offices, and systems.

Open data

Making industry data open, secure, consistent, accessible, and usable encourages new ways of working to emerge. Optimising supply chains, creating digital twins, and enhancing collaboration between stakeholders, open data can help to accelerate decarbonisation. In addition, as data becomes easier to access, open innovation often follows. New ways of working help accelerate development processes, enabling smarter solutions and reducing costs.

"Partnerships, like the one between Microsoft and Accenture, are essential in bringing together an electricity utility like SSE with business and digital technology transformation specialists."

— Rachel McEwen, Chief Sustainability Officer, SSE plc

Partner power

Accenture and Microsoft, with Avanade, are helping accelerate the UK’s transition to net-zero. Our digital and implementation know-how can help industrial clusters deliver on their goals at lower cost – while mitigating risk, safely accelerating deployment, and building new capabilities for the future.

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