Sustainable Manufacturing Workshop speech by HE Antony Phillipson

Speech delivered by High Commissioner for a Sustainable Manufacturing Workshop that was supported by the British High Commission’s Science and Innovation team.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s a great pleasure to be here to open this morning’s Sustainable Manufacturing Workshop, which has been organised by A*STAR’s Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre here at NTU, and supported by the British High Commission’s Science and Innovation team.

I know that organising meetings like this takes a lot of effort and energy, and I would particularly like to thank Professor David Butler, Mr Desmond Wong and their team at the ARTC and NTU for their hospitality.

I must apologise for the fact that I will need to slip away soon, but I think I have a good excuse which I will come to in a minute…

But first I’d like to highlight three reasons why Sustainable Manufacturing is so important and why we are pleased to be able to support this workshop.

The first point is that it is important to see this issue in a global context.

Earlier this month, around the world, UK, French and German missions came together for what we called a global day of action on climate change.

We were looking ahead to next year’s Paris conference, which will be a crucial moment in terms of whether we can, as a global community, get to grips with the challenge posed by climate change and the impact it is going to have on all our lives.

Earlier this week an important report on the New Climate Economy was published that set out both the scale of that challenge, but also the key parts of the solution.

It noted that in the next 15 years the global economy would grow by more than half, a billion more people would move to live in cities and rapid technological advance would continue to change businesses and lives.

But it also noted that low carbon, climate resilient and sustainable growth was possible. We have the capital and our potential for innovation is vast. But what we need is strong political leadership and credible consistent policies.

Which takes me to my second point, today’s topic of sustainable manufacturing.

In the last few years the UK government has developed a detailed industrial strategy that sets out the key building blocks of our economy of the future.

The manufacturing sector is going to be a crucial part of that future.

In the UK it accounts for more than half of our exports and around three quarters of business research and development. It employs around 2.5 million people. It is a vital source of productivity, outperforming the return of the economy, and innovation.

In an effort to take a long-term view of the manufacturing sector, the UK Government’s Office of Science recently produced a foresight study on the future of manufacturing. They sought input from around the world, including via a workshop held here in Singapore in 2013.

Among its conclusions, the study outlined four key future characteristics of manufacturing, the most relevant of which today is the focus on sustainability.

They defined sustainability as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

And as well as the impact of climate change they went on to talk about issues like volatility of supply, the vulnerability of supply chains, increased regulation and environmental pricing, greater consumer demand for eco-friendly products and the need for companies to develop a circular economy model in which products are reused, remanufactured and recycled.

They also talked about the necessary responses from Government and issues like incentivising product and process efficiency, targeting R&D at resource efficiency and supporting business models based on reuse, remanufacturing and services.

And how governments respond to this brings me to my third point, the importance of partnerships and specifically those that have developed and will develop between the UK and Singapore.

I have said many times in my three and a half years here that we are a very good fit for each other. We are both trading nations, who rely on an open, global economy; are both looking to build a knowledge based economy; and both committed to supporting innovation and research.

In the last ten years through the UK/Singapore Partners-in-Science programme we have worked together on dozens of workshops like this, bringing together not only academics and resarchers but the companies too, and it’s that sense of partnership between academia, the private sector and the public sector that I think is so crucial.

Today’s event is an excellent example.

Amongst the UK attendees you have representatives of three of our most productive universities in Manchester, Strathclyde and Birmingham.

These universities are home to three of the UK’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult Centers. They form part of a global network of Advanced Manufacturing Research Centers of which the building we are now meeting in is the latest example.

And these centres wouldn’t be possible without the contribution of companies like Rolls-Royce and their industrial partners.

Ladies and gentlemen, I said I had a good excuse for leaving early, and that involves demonstration of the partnership, indeed the friendship, between the UK and Singapore at the very highest level.

Next month Singapore’s President Tony Tan visits the UK as a guest of Her Majesty The Queen. This is the first ever State Visit by a Singaporean President.

We will be using the visit to honour Singapore as it approaches its 50th anniversary of independence next year and to celebrate the longstanding links that have developed over almost 200 years since Raffles landed here in 1819.

But we will also be using it to look forward and, in particular, to launch a new innovation and research partnership that builds on the excellent collaborations through the Partners-in-Science programme.

But if we are to achieve the ambitions we both have for ensuring prosperity and economic security for our people, and if we are to maximise the scope to work together to deliver a low carbon, sustainable future for our and the world’s economy, then we need to take this partnership to a new level.

In particular we need to pull those science collaborations through into productive, innovative activity by our SMEs and we need to ensure that we have the right policy connections to set the framework not only for sustainable manufacturing but coherent economic and business policies that are fit for the future.

I think this is a very exciting time for UK and Singapore in this regard, and much of my and my colleagues’ time in the next few weeks will be devoted to working with our counterparts here to deliver on this vision.

Which is what I will be doing for the rest of this morning, and I wish you all the best for the contribution you will make through your discussions here, I look forward to hearing about them. Thank you.

Further Information

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Published 18 September 2014