Defining the UK’s Clean Air Tech sector

Supporting innovative solutions to tackle air pollution in the UK

Air pollution. Smokestacks making air pollution over dramatic sky

Air pollution is the biggest environmental health threat to the UK population

Air pollution in the UK is estimated to contribute to 40,000 excess premature deaths and cost the economy £20 billion per year.  

In recent years, there has been increasing awareness of air pollution as a health and climate issue. This has led to the introduction of new air quality regulations and the development of clean, green technologies to combat the problem. Innovations in systems and products to monitor, prevent, control and remove air pollution are emerging across the globe.  

The UK has an internationally respected innovation ecosystem and is well equipped to develop new products and services to address this health and climate challenge.  

But the development of innovative solutions for complex and systemic issues such as air pollution goes beyond the input of any single technology provider. It requires the participation of governments, industry, community-based organisations, academics, health professionals and contributors from a huge range of domains, areas and sectors.  

Urban Foresight was commissioned by Innovate UK to define the Clean Air Tech sector and set recommendations for its future growth, cohesion and prosperity.  

Our experts applied a range of research techniques, from extensive desk research and stakeholder mapping, to a comprehensive programme of sector engagement involving interviews, workshops and surveys.  

From this work, we developed a systems map to provide a clear definition of the sector and the current maturity of the UK market. We identified the key forces shaping the growth of the sector, and the challenges it faces in providing innovative solutions to the UK’s air pollution challenges.  

We found that there is significant potential in the UK Clean Air Tech sector, but that it is a complex ecosystem of organisations comprising private businesses, government, academia and the third sector. Our research showed that entities often do not work together or understand how they could combine evidence and innovation. 

Our findings are encapsulated in our report for Innovate UK, Clean Air Tech: Tackling air pollution in the UK through a more cohesive sector.  

This project built on Urban Foresight’s expertise in mapping and providing insight into the development of complex industry and infrastructure ecosystems, such as our work on Bridging the City Innovation Gap where we profiled the market in net zero solutions for places. We defined the market, categorised its segments, and made recommendations on how places, companies and Innovate UK could drive greater innovation. 

Similarly, we undertook a programme of market research for the North East Local Enterprise Partnership to explore emerging technologies in automotive manufacturing. To develop the North East Automotive Strategy we identified opportunities for new technologies in manufacturing processes and identified skills needs and barriers to technology adoption.