NEPIC have canvassed the membership about what a successful industry strategy would look like to them. They told us that these asset intensive industries – chemicals, plastics, pharmaceuticals and bioprocessing – need a strategy that’s integrated across industry sectors and along supply chains, to underpin sustainable long-term growth that will significantly improve the country’s balance of payments.
1. We need greater integration and infrastructure that encourages this has been raised.
2. A call for further use of fossil fuels will raise flags for some, but be assured we want any such use to be aligned with climate targets, and any strategy should seek to minimise emissions by incentivising the use of carbon capture utilisation or storage. It should also recognise the need for the chemical industry to transition from fossil based feedstocks and incentivise the introduction of renewable and cleaner alternatives.
3. The strategy should embrace the bio-economy and the opportunities it brings to UK based industry.
4. Support should be given for manufacturing clusters, as seen on Teesside, Humberside and Grangemouth needs to be optimised, to bolster their competitiveness with similar hubs in Europe and around the world. There is a real opportunity in places like Teesside to develop a powerful integrated supply chain that helps create more wealth and employment. This could be done by creating private wire networks and tax relief for energy created and used in these locations by energy-intensive industries.
5. Effort is needed to publicise the industrial capabilities of these regions in an effort to encourage industry to collocate and relocate from abroad. Post Brexit this includes the opportunity to create free trade zones as has been done in several competing locations outside the UK.
6. Targeted intervention is needed to help fund infrastructure, scoping studies or policy changes to underpin the overall strategic objectives. Any interventions should pass the following tests: Does it help with energy security? Does it support our CO2 reduction goals? Interventions should also provide direct support to industrial developments and not just research based programmes via universities and other Centres of Excellence.
7. Alignment of disparate local, regional and national government objectives is vital. It’s a sorry state of affairs here in the northeast, where local support to cleanly develop the region’s large coal is met with national indifference. Despite the huge industrial support for clean coal technologies we find technology developed at home is taken abroad and used immediately by our competitors. We need to have industrial leadership on these matters with polices that ensure industry meets the highest standards set by society.
8. The strategy must recognise the hugely positive impact the chemical industries have on the UK economy. Over recent years its effect has been very much underplayed, as opposed to other ill-defined sectors like ‘advanced manufacturing’. What are chemicals, polymers, biotech, and pharmaceuticals if they are not ‘extremely advanced manufacturing’?
9. The process sectors leading chemistry-based, technological capability needs to be better promoted. And with investors finding it hard to recognise and interact with the myriad of decision makers they have to influence to get their project off the ground, we need a strategy that provides clear and simple ownership of decision making processes at both national and regional level.
10. There is much evidence that we need a strategy that reinforces the continuous development of a skilled workforce and also improves productivity and efficiency to meet the challenges of global competition.
The strategy needs to be owned in partnership by government, industry, trade associations and Industry Cluster bodies. Its implementation must be supported financially with appropriate programmes and infrastructure projects. What is more the voice of individual companies must not dominate in its implementation.
The chemical industry is a diverse advanced manufacturing industry which has ubiquitous, and yet little appreciated impact on all industrial sectors of the economy. A UK industrial strategy must expose its importance to all industrial supply chains such that more of it can be sustained and grown here in the UK. With a smart industrialisation approach such as this the chemical process industry has the ability to revolutionise this Nation’s balance of payments.