An Autumn Statement that talks of infrastructure only in terms of roads and railways, and speculates that adding more money to the academic pot in terms of innovation to bring about a better future for UK manufacturing, is disappointing following missed opportunities for sustainable growth.
This is not how best to stimulate an industrial economy and much more is needed. Secure and affordable energy. Industrial infrastructure that encourages and assists with productivity and investment. A true understanding of cutting edge science and technology that could be used.
First and foremost, Britain’s energy challenge must be tackled head-on. It must be recognised that energy really is the fundamental raw material of the foundation industries. It does not only turn on the lights and computers or heat up the night shift kettle.
The raw materials in these industries have many forms; oil, gas, electricity, heat, coal, minerals, air and water. And it is in these industries where maximum value is created by turning basic inputs into the everyday resources that we use in our daily lives – providing materials for our homes, growth of our food, objects for our entertainment and fuel for heat and transport.
The chemistry-based industries really do have the capability to rebalance the UK economy and greatly improve our balance of payments through the rebuilding of industrial supply chains. However, this is only possible if it is enabled to efficiently and cleanly use the UK’s raw material assets.
In this regard shale gas is important, however, the UK’s coal reserves are amongst the biggest industrial opportunity anywhere in the world. Technology has been developed to extract coal as a gas offshore and capture carbon emissions. What is now required is the industrial infrastructure to make it happen.
The high asset-based process industries that this country and modern societies depend upon, all require industrial infrastructure that aids and assists productivity and sustainability. In particular, these energy intensive industries require infrastructure that encourages material symbiosis and energy integration between themselves and their downstream supply chains.
What is required is a private wire network on Teesside and industrial infrastructure in support of frack gas, coal gasification and carbon, capture and usage. Insufficient integration has the ability to severely damage UK industry further as future investors look to locations where more modern industrial infrastructure exists. Smarter and more integrated industrialisation is the only way forward.
The UK is very much at the leading edge of the science and engineering used within these industries. Yet all too often technologies and inventions developed here are being implemented offshore in locations where Governments understand and support the development of industrial infrastructure.
NEPIC has recently submitted a paper to Government outlining the chemical-process industries needs in relation to a proposed Industrial Strategy. The full paper, which was issued in October 2016 via the Chemical Industries Association and Chemistry Growth Partnership, can be viewed on-line.
Dr. Stan Higgins
Chief Executive, NEPIC