Brown’s power trip

It’s official. If you are working in an area of engineering and technology related to the environment, power, energy efficiency, cleaner fuels or lower emissions, you are where it’s at.

We were told this by chancellor Gordon Brown just a few hours ago in a Budget that made much of its desire to stimulate and reward the green, and tax the unclean.

An example. One of the chancellor’s announcements concerned the National Institute of Energy Technologies, a new organisation that will, in the government’s words ‘bring a new level of focus, ambition and industrial collaboration to the UK’s work in energy science and engineering.’

The new Institute will be a 50/50 venture between the public and private sectors. On the private side, we are told that big-hitters including Shell, BP, EDF and E.On are already keen to get involved. There will also be more backing for early-stage technology ventures which meet the energy efficient criteria set down by the government.

Now, this is all promising stuff. As always, however, when politics meets policy, business, engineering and science, the proof of the pudding will very much be in the eating.

The partnerships involved in the brave new world of the Institute are fiendishly difficult to manage. The public and private sectors. Policy directives versus commercial imperatives. Bitter commercial rivals. Global megalith and innovative start-up. University professor and plc sales manager.

Yes, we need the technology to make the UK more energy efficient, cleaner and greener, but we also need a model to make it a real, commercially viable entity. That, in a funny sort of way, is as much of a challenge as the engineering and science.