Submission from AMEC
1. This evidence is being presented by AMEC
to the IUSS Committee's call for supplementary evidence on "Putting
Science and Engineering at the Heart of Government Policy".
2. AMEC is the largest UK-based private sector
supplier of technical engineering services to the nuclear sector.
The business builds on AMEC's 50 years experience in the UK nuclear
market. Half of our nuclear business is now international with
a wide client base covering nuclear utilities, vendors and regulators
in Canada, Europe and the former Soviet Union, South Africa, Japan
and Korea. AMEC is committed to maintaining its position as the
leading UK engineering company servicing the growing UK and global
nuclear market. In addition, AMEC supports and is developing the
conventional and renewable power sectors with projects on wind
farms, biofuels, clean coal technology and carbon capture.
3. Views are presented against the four
What form a debate or consultation about the question
should take and who should lead it
4. The debate should be centred around achieving
a transformational change in the UK's position in the shortest
achievable timescale, given different competing funding priorities.
We would propose a 10 year roadmap is established with interim
key progress targets to improve the UK's commercial competitiveness
in a global marketplace. This would suggest lead ownership by
BERR to engage with key industry consultation and collaboration
to establish priority areas where the UK can establish true competitive
advantage, and to provide a focus where DIUS can develop the supporting
innovation and skills platform.
5. Such a debate needs to review major global
scientific challenges which would encompass energy, water and
health sectors as leading candidates arising from climate change
and socio-economic development issues.
Whether such a policy is desirable or necessary
6. As a leading UK applied engineering consultant
and engineer in high technology disciplines serving a global market,
it is essential for our commercial success that the UK continues
to be seen as a high value added centre for scientific and technical
development. The UK must also improve its reputation at converting
scientific developments into successful commercial applications.
AMEC therefore strongly supports Lord Drayson's objectives behind
a policy. However clear actions and accountabilities must be placed
to ensure that a policy delivers through to the benefit of the
What the potential implications of such a policy
are for UK science and engineering, higher education, industry
and the economy as a whole
7. The strength of AMEC's position in the global
nuclear market has been driven by previous UK Government scientific
investment into developing a significant nuclear capability in
the early days of commercial nuclear power applications. We have
taken this on to engage in international collaborative programmes
where UK nuclear skills are still viewed as significant, whilst
investing in technology developments which have potential global
applications rather than UK specific selected technologies. Not
engaging with international developments was one of the historical
mistakes made which has given nuclear technology development a
tarnished reputation in the UK.
8. A global nuclear renaissance is occurring
where the UK's currently limited volume but highly respected skills
are in demand. Much of this growth potential is coming from countries
where responsible people were originally trained by UK universities.
9. This gives the potential for the UK to
be an independent leader in the nuclear sector. However we must
recognise that other countries skills are also developing and
we need to invest more to maintain our lead in technologies for
the future. AMEC provided evidence to the DIUS consultation on
Engineering: turning ideas into reality on the potential benefits
and some of AMEC's recommendations have been reflected through
in the report's conclusions, such as engaging in fourth generation
10. Such activities can provide opportunity
across all sectors from basic research through to industrial application.
Important to underpin this is the continued development of high
technology research sites, which establish world leading reputations.
JET has done this for the fusion programme but will be overtaken
by ITER. The UK should consider re-engaging as a host country
for future technical demonstrations, such as DEMO for the fusion
programme, or a prototype generation IV reactor. Such investment
has significant spin-off benefits across academia and provides
opportunities for SME's behind larger engineering organisations,
as well as providing a world-leading profile through flagship
project success. An example of this is being demonstrated by DIAMOND.
11. This would be based on prioritisation
taking advice from different industry sectors against the criteria
laid out in Gordon Brown's speech of 27 Feb in Oxford where he
stated "Our approach is not that of picking winners or
protecting existing industry from the market. Rather it is a clear
strategic assessment of our futurebased on the strengths
and comparative advantages that Britain already hasto create
a framework for prioritised long-term investment which allows
the market to function effectively and prepares our country to
emerge from the downturn in the strongest possible position."
AMEC views that this does entail the selection of preferred technologies
to invest in and that the clean energy sector provides a significant
opportunity. The UK has a strong capability developing in renewables
and potentially in clean coal technologies as well as a strong
independent nuclear heritage which can become the basis of future
high technology global success where demand is significantly growing.