Business Secretary Vince Cable and a panel of leading innovators hailed business innovation as key to the UK’s economic future and pointed to the oil and gas industry’s role in fostering technology at Innovation Nation, a major debate held this week at the Royal Society. The panel also called for better and earlier education on invention and intellectual property and more flexible funding for creative enterprise.
An edited film of the event is available on the Energising the Nation’s Future website.
The Business Secretary opened proceedings with a key-note address emphasising that fostering innovation was a strategic priority for the Government in its effort to rebuild the economy and maintain the competitiveness of the UK.
He said: “Government has an important role to play in encouraging and harnessing innovation. Through our Industrial Strategy we are working with key industries including the oil and gas sector to embrace the potential of alternative investment models like crowd-funding which will help ensure Britain can continue to produce innovators.”
Cable then joined a diverse range of leading British innovators unified in their belief that innovation is fundamental to the UK economy, jobs and competitiveness. The panel consisted of the head of BP’s North Sea operations, Trevor Garlick; the inventor of the wind-up radio, Trevor Baylis; and Scottish entrepreneur, technical innovator, former land speed record holder and director of The BLOODHOUND Project, Richard Noble.
Trevor Garlick focused on the vital role that the oil and gas sector plays in nurturing and promoting innovation in the UK. He used his years of industry experience to discuss the various technical challenges the oil and gas sector has overcome, indicating that future success will continue to rely on an ability to innovate and collaborate.
He said: “I may not be an innovator compared to the other panelists, but my industry certainly is. The oil and gas sector is one of the greatest industrial successes of modern times. In the UK, we have produced over 40 billion barrels from the North Sea and we’re investing at record levels. To get to this point, the industry has shown itself to be incredibly resilient and resourceful in the face of some extreme challenges. We have had to find and recover oil and gas from a wide variety of reservoirs and operating conditions. Looking to the future, I am optimistic. I believe we can continue to be one of the main drivers of the UK economy, creating new jobs, improving the security of our energy supply, stimulating exports, and generating substantial revenues for the Treasury. Our ability to innovate and collaborate will continue to play a key role in this success.”
Cable added: “Significant investment is going into the North Sea, a record £13.5 billion this year. But it isn’t just a question of putting in more money and drilling holes; innovation is at the heart of what is happening in the North Sea. We need technological innovation so that the industry can extract reserves from hard-to-reach areas and achieve sustainable production from new discoveries.”
Richard Noble and Trevor Baylis used their decades of experience at the sharp-end of engineering and invention to examine how the UK can continue pushing the boundaries of technical innovation. They discussed some of the frameworks required to ensure that innovation and the next generation of innovators can continue to thrive in the UK. While Richard Noble noted the “risk aversion” endemic in Britain’s corporate culture and the importance of sponsorship as a funding model for creative enterprise, both he and Trevor Baylis were united in their belief in the importance of grounding invention and innovation into our education systems at an early age.
Baylis concluded: “Invention should be a staple part of our national curriculum and we should be ensuring the next generation of entrepreneurs and engineers are both encouraged to fulfill their ideas and equipped with the known-how to ensure they prosper from them.”
Innovation Nation marked the conclusion of the current phase of Energising the Nation’s Future, a nationwide awareness campaign from Oil & Gas UK to highlight the innovation, economic contribution and skilled job creation fostered by the oil and gas industry. The audience was drawn from the worlds of politics, policy, academia and the public with an interest in business, science, technology and engineering.
Malcolm Webb, chief executive of Oil & Gas UK, said: “Innovation Nation was a fitting finale to this phase of our Energising the Nation’s Future campaign that has looked to show how vital the oil and gas industry is to the UK and how innovation lies at its heart. As our esteemed panel explained, innovation is alive and well in the UK. We have a rich history and proud tradition that has seen UK creativity and engineering achieve world-renown. This is not just our past, but it is a fundamental to our future too. Nurturing the next generation of business innovators will be integral to the UK’s economic success.
“Creating the right frameworks – politically, financially and culturally – for innovation to flourish is essential if the UK is to build its position as an economic power. Innovation creates jobs, it develops industries and it sustains economies. Without it, the UK would suffer dramatically. On behalf of Oil & Gas UK, I would like to thank all participants for making that point so powerfully.”
Press Release, October 29, 2013