Technology Strategy Board

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

Discussing the development and promotion of low carbon vehicles.

Technology Strategy Board speech


Good morning and thank you for inviting me to speak today.

I am sorry not be able to be with you in person.

It would have been the ideal opportunity to drop into Gaydon’s Heritage Motor Centre and find out more about the 1912 Wolseley Gyrocar.

One those curious innovative cul-de-sacs, the Gyrocar briefly bestrode the roads on 2 wheels before disappearing without a trace.

Sadly, I understand that the museum’s pièce de résistance the ROVER-BRM experimental gas turbine car isn’t currently available for viewing.

That’s probably just as well. When racing driver Graham Hill first tested it he remarked:

You’re sitting in this thing that you might call a motor car and the next minute it sounds as if you’ve got a 707 just behind you, about to suck you up and devour you like an enormous monster.

Of course, in Britain, for every eccentric experiment you’ll find a piece of great engineering that’s stood the test of time - from the Great Eastern, Brunel’s SS Great Britain, to the Forth Railway Bridge. And behind every great piece of engineering there are great engineers and great scientists.

That’s where you come in.

People who have the appetite and the potential to deliver comparable game-changing advances.

Why does this matter?

It’s not simply because we want to enhance our prestige in the eyes of the world, although we do. But because we need to reduce our carbon emissions across the economy by 50% by the mid-2020s. And 80% by 2050.

If we’re to meet these challenging targets we know we’re going to have to do something substantial about road emissions.

Twenty-two per cent of UK domestic carbon emissions are from transport - of which over 90% is on the road. And passenger cars account for over half of the total UK’s domestic transport carbon emissions.

So investment in the development and promotion of low carbon vehicles is a must.

Now we’ve earmarked £400 million to support growth of the market for ultra low emission vehicles. This is to do a number of things.

It is helping consumers reduce the upfront costs of buying an electric car. It is supporting the provision of recharging infrastructure in the UK.

And it is supporting research and development. We need to nurture the talent capable of realising that low carbon future.

And we can’t rely on chance or serendipity to bring those great inventors and innovators to the fore.

So, with this event, the Technology Strategy Board is taking a leaf out of the Dragon’s Den school of entrepreneurship – and marrying it with an interesting variant of speed dating.

As government, we are putting £25 million towards supporting this low carbon vehicle competition.

It’s notable that it’s not aimed just at the automotive sector - but also at other businesses who have technical knowledge and expertise to contribute.

It’s good that there is such a wide spread of talent here today.

Now, in a minute Andrew Everett, Head of Transport, at the Technology Strategy Board will give you the detail on how the day is going to run. I am going to finish on this note.

There are 2 opportunities for you here today. Of course, there’s the competition itself but there’s also the chance for you to grab a piece of that low carbon market.

The UK is among the front-runners in the global market for ultra low carbon vehicles and there are huge commercial opportunities to exploit in manufacturing and the associated supply chain.

Engineering in the words of Gordon Brown – that’s not our ex-Prime Minister but the ex-Dean of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) - is “practicing the art of the organised forcing of technological change”.

Achieve that and you can be certain not just to reap financial rewards but to stand alongside the technological titans of times gone by as leaders of a new low carbon revolution.

I look forward to keeping in touch with how this competition progresses and seeing what comes out of it. Thank you for your interest. I hope you have a very successful and productive day.