Neil Kermode – Managing director, European Marine Energy Centre

What would be the advantages and disadvantages of the government appointing ‘Chief Engineering Adviser’?

Advantages: Someone who would be able to provide consistent comment/advice on key issues that are likely to be of a highly technical nature and of long timescale. It worked in the war with the appointment of Dr R. V. Jones and his team. It will work now.

Disadvantages: None.

What are the highest priority areas for government spending to enhance the UK’s capability in your sector, and in technology in general?

My Sector: Understand the importance of electricity to the nation and the precarious state we are allowing it to get into. Drive forward the de-carbonisation of the electricity sector whilst maintaining the necessary thrust on fuel efficiency and the decarbonisation of other fuels. We have the targets, what we need now is the plan to actually do it.

Technology: Understand that the sums we put into basic R&S are hopelessly inadequate for the task and that this is where the future wealth for the nation will come from.

Which recent government policies have been particularly effective for your sector, and which (if any) have been a hindrance?

Effective: Putting money onto the table to assist developers build wave and tidal energy devices. (Only partially effective because not enough cash is available and the State Aid Rules hamper properly funded R&D)

Hampering: OFGEM’s decision that it is OK to charge more for transmission from remote areas. Lack of progress in re-tasking OFGEM to drive forward decarbonisation.

Which of the engineering and technology sectors are underpeforming in the UK currently, and what could be done to bolster them?

Given the inadequate R&D funding I would suggest all are under performing. Answer: Seek derogation from State Aid Rules for R&D to allow higher % of money to be provided. Others can better advise on this.

From what you’ve seen so far, which of the main political parties has the best policies to address these issues?

No comment.

Which areas of technology research do you think are best coordinated by the European Union, and which are better left within the UK?

EU funding is best employed when there is a natural fit of nations with a common interest. It seems less effective when a fit is manufactured to bring in ‘disinterested’ nations for the sake of unity.

Overall there is a need for increased R&D funding from whatever source can be found.

What are the biggest opportunities for growth in your sector, in the short and medium terms?

Biggest growth opportunities in energy:

  • Offshore Wind
  • District heating & combined heat and power
  • Energy Storage.

What is the best way to approach technological goals in the long term (ie, with results more than five years off)? Can and should government play a role here?

Seek multi party consensus. No-one knows who will be in power by the time the technology is ready, so it makes sense to have all possible parties signed up to the plan at the top level from the start. Set sufficient budget to get it done trough whatever means are appropriate, but DON’T let it become a political football. Make sure all parties can bask in whatever glory can be created as it goes along. Ownership of this should sit outside government in order to defend it as administrations change and provide continuity of effort. Government does have a role, but the political parties that could make up government are as important.

What do you think of the current status of engineers in the UK? What can be done to enhance it?

Status of Engineers: We don’t really have much status.

Enhancement: Seek to get ‘Engineer’ protected. ‘If you aren’t Chartered you don’t get to use it’ should be the rule. So my boiler will have been designed by an Engineer, but installed by a plumber or a boiler technician. I know it sounds a bit elitist, but that is what status will be founded upon.  It will take a generation to get this back and possibly some prosecutions, but it needs to be done.

Some proper engineering programmes need to be on the box and we need to have a media profile and some characters who can commentate. It will take quite a staff to make this happen..