White paper features new Industrial Strategy to shape a stronger state

27 November 2017
Today, the government released its Industrial Strategy White Paper in a bid to boost productivity and the economy and prepare the ground for a post-Brexit future. Managing Principal Matt Davies, gives his thoughts on how the strategy will affect the environmental sector.

Matt Davies

UK Managing Principal
T: +44 1312 972 650

The paper sets out five foundations of productivity: ideas - to innovate the economy, people - to increase earning potential, infrastructure - to upgrade social and economic organisation, business environment - to improve the productivity and growth of small to medium-sized businesses, and places - to create prosperous communities across the UK.

Challenges such as foregrounding artificial intelligence and data economy, mobilising the nation, shifting to clean growth and meeting the needs of an ageing society have also been set to place the UK at the forefront of future industries.

Matt said: “Today’s launch of the government’s Industrial Strategy is to be welcomed. It sets out a vision to make the UK the world’s most innovative economy, the best place to start a business and to create prosperity for all.”

He added, “The commitments around investment in infrastructure, cities and skills are positive. Increasing the National Infrastructure Investment Fund, the specific commitments around electric vehicles and the proposed investment to aid with the linking of cities, all bring precision to this vision.

“Taken together with the proposals set out in the ambitious Clean Growth Strategy published last month and with last week’s budget, the dedicated investment in new ideas and new assets offers particularly exciting opportunities for the environmental services industry.”

On top of the “challenge of unpicking the financial commitments in each”, Matt said, “There are still some obstacles to overcome from an environmental industries perspective. Take the focus on life sciences for example. The question of how REACH will be implemented post-Brexit remains, and many in the sector are exploring how we can continue to provide REACH services from UK and European centres. Whilst there is no doubt that demand for REACH will continue, there remains a great deal of uncertainty over how it will be implemented in the UK.

“When it comes to the low carbon economy, the government’s commitment to investment in electric vehicle infrastructure and development needs to link with commitments to decarbonising power generation. However, the budget made no new proposals, keeping the carbon price at current levels until coal is phased out and effectively suspending support for new renewables projects until 2025.”

Matt continued, “On skills, the strategy makes much of its focus on investment in science, technology, engineering and maths. But more attention must be paid to facing skills shortages today. The demand for environmental specialists to ensure major infrastructure projects such as HS2 are designed and built to the highest standards of environmental protection is already stretching supply. And in an industry that prides itself on being global, creating opportunities for and relying on environmental specialists from Europe and around the world, the uncertainty over movement of people creates very real challenges.

“So, inevitably, while the broad ambition is to be commended, it remains to be seen how the details will manifest in reality. The environmental services industry can make a significant contribution in supporting the government’s ambitions announced today and last month, but we need more clarity and precision if we are to continue to build our sector in the direction and at the rate that will make this contribution effective.”

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