A vision with meaning

Posted on 14 Oct 2010 by The Manufacturer

Today Cogent, SSC for chemicals, pharmaceuticals, nuclear, oil and gas, petroleum and polymer businesses held its annual skills forum for emerging technologies.

The annual Cogent skills forum for emerging industries under its remit was held today in Westminster. Introducing the event Cogent CEO, John Beecham CBE, welcomed attendees alongside Andrew Miller MP, Chair of the Select Committee on Science and Technology. Mr Miller was forthright in reminding the gathered industry employers and members of educational bodies from across the UK that the input of technically experienced individuals into policy formation was imperative for the formation of coherent policy. “Only ten per cent of my colleagues have real experience of the STEM world and that is ten per cent more than exists in much of government. It is a problem in governments across the world.” However, at the same time as admitting this lack of technical understanding and experience Mr Miller emphasized an awareness among policy drivers that “We cannot sufficiently underline the importance of science and technology to our national economy. We must have a long term strategic vision on the exploitation of our abilities in this area.”

Cogent has been creating a lot of literature and industry insight into the emerging skills and supply chain potential around the nuclear industry over the last year but the emphasis of today’s event supported the launch of a new report into Biotechnology in the UK, BioViosion. Speaking about this report, and about the specific challenges facing the interdisciplinary industry of Biotechnology Ian Shott CBE, Chair of the UK Innovation Growth Team for biotechnology, said “We must remember that the UK is still the fifth largest producer of chemicals in the world but that we are facing at time where the high cost of extracting ever more difficult to reach oils will mean we cannot use hydro-carbon chemical in the way we used to and we will have to look to alternatives.”

While there are great stories of successful investment in the biotechnology industry, including a £12m facility in the North East Shott emphasized that if the industry is to grow sustainably then strong communication between the multiple academic disciplines which support it is needed as well as continuing industry involvement. In addition Shott spoke about the importance of growing technician level skills by transferring and up-skilling technicians from associated industries, he emphasized that it was important to have a strong skills base at all levels in order to attract both indigenous and foreign investment in the UK for an industry which will transform pharmaceuticals, renewable fuels and many other industries whose main products have essentially molecular bases.

Joanna Woolf, CEO of Cogent, backed up this view but made it clear that in putting new levels of support behind the emerging biotechnology industry it would be important for initiatives not to try and start from scratch or to reinvent the wheel. Woolf announced to delegates that Cogent would be launching a new life sciences advisory council to collate existing research, make sense of it and put one voice forward from industry for the guidance of further education, higher education and policy. Cogent will be calling for employers in relevant sectors to participate in this council.

For more information on BioVision and its key recommendations please visit www.cogent-ssc.com/research