Competition, carriers, and creativity

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Jason Ford

News Editor

Companies wanting to boost exports to the US and BRIC nations would do well to attend a series of seminars in Manchester, Birmingham and London this week.

The EEF and UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) are holding joint seminars led by the heads of UKTI’s Advanced Engineering Commercial Teams and Commercial staff based overseas in the Brazilian, Russian, Indian, Chinese (BRIC) and US markets.

According to the EEF, the seminars will be relevant to all areas of manufacturing, with a focus on engineering, automotive and aerospace and are expected to help UK manufacturers understand the scale of the markets along with the challenges and opportunities.

Specific areas that will be covered in interactive clinics will include project finance, international business law and IP protection.

In Parliament this week energy secretary Chris Huhne is expected to unveil reforms to Britain’s electricity market.

Due for publication tomorrow, a government white paper will reveal the extent to which utility companies will be incentivised to renew the nation’s energy infrastructure and bring down greenhouse gas emissions.

Still in Parliament and news that the Public Accounts Committee will hold an evidence session on aircraft carriers today.

Last year’s Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) scrapped the carrier HMS Ark Royal, leaving the Royal Navy without the ability to fly fixed-wing aircraft at sea until next generation of carriers – Prince of Wales and Queen Elizabeth – come into service.

Only one of those carriers will be operational – pending the next SDSR – and last week the National Audit Office (NAO) reported that government changes to the aircraft carrier carrier programme in the SDSR had created ’significant levels of operational, technical, cost and schedule uncertainty.’

Post SDSR costs for the carriers are estimated by the NAO to be £6.24bn compared with £3.65bn when the decision was made in 2007 to invest in them.

Think tank Demos launches a report today suggesting that government should commission the technological advances that the private sector considers too risky. Without such intervention, it says, initiatives like the Green Investment Bank could fail

The report, The Entrepreneurial State by Prof Mariana Mazzucato, challenges the assumption that the state’s presence in the economy obstructs innovation.

Prof Mazzucato argues that the state leads innovation by being more willing than venture capital to engage in early stage ideas, creating new products and markets.  Similarly, private venture capitalists are less likely to invest in basic research stages due to the high risk, long development period and slow returns.

In a statement, Prof Mazzucato said: ‘There is currently a global race to be the leader in environmental technologies.  Britain has the potential to do well, but is danger of being left behind.  As it currently stands, the Green Investment Bank is no more than an empty gesture without the funds or security to invest in the research that will really bring new jobs and growth to Britain.  The green tech revolution won’t come without allowing companies to explore before they profit – you have to take to big risks to make big gains.

Examples of successful state backing include the algorithm that led to Google’s success, which was funded by a US National Science Foundation Grant; and molecular anti-bodies, the foundation for biotechnology, that were discovered in Medical Research Council labs in the UK.

Tomorrow sees the deadline for entries to the electricity pylon design competition run by the Royal Institute of British Architects for the Department of Energy and Climate Change and National Grid.

Shortlisted entries will have the opportunity to work with National Grid before submitting their final designs at the beginning of September for inclusion at an exhibition to be held at the V&A

Finally, Friday marks the deadline for entries to The Engineer Technology & Innovation Awards.

This year’s competition will reward outstanding examples of collaboration wherever they occur: whether they be between business and academia, between separate businesses, or between groups of universities.

Click here to enter.