With its strong science background and political courage, the UK could be in the vanguard of a second ‘smart’ industrial revolution, according to Sir David King, director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment.

Speaking at the launch of the latest report from business lobby the Aldersgate Group he said that the UK was second only to the USA in its output of science and said that the ‘golden triangle’ between Oxford, Cambridge and London contained a higher density of small high tech companies than anywhere else in Europe, perhaps the world.

He said we needed to take a long-term view of how we would wean ourselves off fossil fuels, and needed to decarbonise our economy by the middle of the century.

“I don’t think there’s been an innovation opportunity of this magnitude for more than 100 years,” he said.

“Short term measures may be attractive politically but they are not the measures that would deliver.

“We need to make sure that the transition from a fossil fuel based economy to a defossilized economy is done not with the least pain but with the greatest advantage to our well being and our economy.

“Britain is peculiarly advantaged to do that.”

He urged the incoming Government to take the bull by the horns and do what is required to catapult the UK into pole position in the race to establish a living, breathing low carbon economy.

“We need to look to our strengths as we move forward in the next few days,” he said.

“I haven’t yet seen the courage to look at our priorities in the face of this challenge.”

He said that in universities all over the country there were professors working in their labs seeking the alternatives to fossil fuels and solving other environmental problems with ingenuity and innovation.

He challenged Government to put in place the policy framework that would allow the UK to capitalise on this kind of clean tech cottage industry and bring these ideas to market.

“There’s another opportunity,” he said.

“To buy through the products of these new innovative companies using Government procurement funds.”

Government buys in some £150bn worth of goods and services every year, he said, and if it earmarked just 1% of that spend for low carbon products from new industries, it would radically change the face of the British economy.

“We’d pull through a whole range of industries right into the marketplace,” he said.

“And we could begin to get into the second British phase of being the world’s leading manufacturing country.”

Sam Bond

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