The Manor Royal Living Lab | UK

Manor Royal Business District is one of south east England’s premier mixed activity employment hubs. It covers an area of 240 hectares next to Crawley town centre and is home to approximately 500 businesses employing 30,000 people in a huge variety of companies.

Since 2013 Manor Royal has also been home to the UK’s largest “industrial” Business Improvement District. The BID has fostered the development of a common identity and community for Manor Royal. It has led in the analysis of problems for businesses, particularly around infrastructure and taken practical action to increase the attractiveness of the area.

Manor Royal was identified as the West Sussex Living Lab since there are rising concerns about access to secure and affordable energy. There is also a desire by businesses to reduce environmental impact of their activities and a recognition that this is better done cooperatively. Moreover, the BID provides an proven way of engaging with firms of all sizes.

Involved project partners: West-Sussex County Council.


The first step in BISEPS was a high level study which identified 4 clusters with high potential for renewable energy. Technologies considered at this stage were PV, heat pumps and CHP. On the heating side we took forward an earlier heat mapping & masterplanning study to complete a feasibility study for a district heating network at Manor Royal.

Together with the businesses on Manor Royal, different options for an integrated, local decentralised renewables based energy system were explored, as well as the advantages this could bring: cost savings, carbon reduction, resilience.

Businesses are keen to adopt this long term vision, but have to focus on their core activities, especially post-Covid, particularly SMEs.

One solution we are looking to adopt in Manor Royal is to establish a Central Energy Management Company (CEMC), owned and controlled by the BID and its members, that provides energy services to them, has its own resources and ability to develop projects, bring in expertise, finance etc. for the benefit of Manor Royal businesses.

Because not based in a single company, the CEMC can be an honest broker between all businesses and is well placed to look at integrating the Manor Royal energy system and bringing benefits to all BID members, for example by taking forward the district heating network or moving to peer-to-peer trading of locally generated electricity. This could easily evolve into a Local Energy Community with a wider group of stakeholders.

Some recommendations:

  • Leadership is essential: fortunately the Manor Royal BID sees the necessity for and potential of local renewable generation in transition to zero carbon – promotion of renewable energy was included as a key part of their business plan.
  • Engagement with businesses and other stakeholders is vital. We started 4 years ago and it has been heartening to see how attitudes have changed since the beginning.
  • Look for assets: for example having PV & battery storage on individual sites opens up the potential for aggregation, the provision of flexibility services and local energy trading to generate additional revenue. Start district heating with a small number of participants, and the network can then grow.
  • A Local Energy Community is crucial for the long term development of renewables and continued vitality.