Full speed ahead: maintaining UK excellence in motorsport and aerospace - Business, Innovation and Skills Committee Contents

7 The Green Agenda

191.  During the course of our inquiry it became clear that both industries felt that they were burdened by a "non-green image", which they believed, put them at odds with government policy. In particular, they were concerned that this public perception placed them at a disadvantage when they applied for research funding and other forms of support. For example, Dr Williams, Head of Business Development, Research & Technology at Airbus told us:

aerospace contributes 2% of CO2 emissions and yet if you read the newspapers or listen to the radio you would think it produced 98% and not 2%.[269]

Similarly at Silverstone we heard that the environmentally unfriendly image of motorsport was causing car manufacturers to pull out from the sport and to turn attention away from high performance vehicles. This had affected the availability of funding for research and development activity.[270] This was a point reiterated by the MIA:

Motorsport has pioneered rapid development of energy-efficient and clean-burn engines, alternative fuels and power sources. [However] BIS-sponsored organisations such as the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), Low Carbon initiatives and the New Automotive Innovation and Growth Team (NAIGT) have failed to adequately engage with the UK motorsport industry or its trade association. [271]

192.  We believe that this image owes much to the "Top Gear effect" with people associating motorsport with an image of "reckless petrol-heads", personified by Jeremy Clarkson, wasting gallons of fuel with no thought or concern about the impact it has on the planet. This is unfortunate because not only are both industries engaged in many activities to improve their energy efficiency and reduce their environmental impact, in many cases this work is actively supported by the Government. When we asked the Minister about this, he said that while he acknowledged the industries had a presentational challenge he was in no doubt about their commitment to addressing environmental issues:

I have been hugely impressed […] at the seriousness that the aerospace industry applies to the issue of emissions and environmental drivers, and really one of the great intellectual disciplines that exists both in the aerospace sector and the motorsport sector visit […] is that they look at energy efficiency and they look at low-carbon issues the whole time, and that is one of the major drivers that they have.[272]

193.  The Minister and his officials strongly denied environmental issues had affected government support for the industries. In its memorandum the Department stated:

UK motorsport has become a breeding ground for 'environmentally friendly' technology; particularly energy efficiency and bio fuel development, as well as super light materials innovation. […] While its contribution to the development of green technology is therefore considerable, it is important that the industry continues to improve its position internationally and further involve itself with similar collaborative projects in the future.[273]

194.  Simon Carter, Business Relationship Manager, AMI Automotive Unit at the Department highlighted the fact that motorsport companies were eligible for funding through the Technology Strategy Board Low Carbon Programmes and that there were also programmes under the Energy Efficiency scheme to support in the take-up of bio-diesel, ethanol and other fuel efficient programmes. He concluded that "a considerable amount has been done; it is just not shouted about and it is not always recognised."[274]

195.  This work has not been confined to the motorsport sector, the National Aerospace Technology Strategy (NATS) recognises the importance for the UK of the development of new technologies to help meet these targets, and a number of organisations have been established to take this work forward. These include:

  • OMEGA (Opportunities for Meeting the Environmental Challenge of Growth in Aviation) is a publicly-funded partnership of nine UK universities that works with the aviation industry to improve understanding of aviation's environmental effects and propose effective and sustainable solutions. The OMEGA programme consists of forty studies and events which address all aspects of the environmental challenge including technology, alternative fuels, policy and economic instruments.[275]
  • Greener by Design (GBD) was formed in 1999 by the Airport Operators Association, the British Air Transport Association, the Royal Aeronautical Society and the Society of British Aerospace Companies (now A|D|S). It brings together experts from all parts of the aviation industry with government bodies and research institutions to seek practical solutions, which are environmentally and economically sustainable, to the challenge posed by aviation's impact on the environment. GBD disseminates technology advice, as well as operational, economic and regulatory advice, about limiting aviation's environmental impact. GBD aims to promote a balanced understanding of aviation's true environmental impact and its environmental programmes.[276]
  • The UK's Sustainable Aviation (SA) initiative is a 20-year sustainability strategy (launched in 2005) that brings together the four key sectors of the aviation industry—aerospace manufacturers, airlines, airports and air traffic management providers. Through its integrated approach, SA ensures that the efforts of these individual sectors are aligned and that improvements in areas like technology, operations and air traffic management can be fully integrated and exploited.[277]
  • Rolls-Royce have also been successful in winning government funding of £45 million on low carbon aero-engine research from the Low Carbon Strategic Investment Fund.[278]

196.  Dr Williams also highlighted the amount of work being done by industry to improve its environmental record:

[…] if you looked at the research and technology into improving that performance, certainly Airbus's efforts towards achieving the [...] goals of 50% reduction in CO2 and 80% reduction in NOx [nitrous oxides] and 50% reduction in noise, you could be forgiven for thinking in fact that all the research and technology effort to improve the environment was only happening in the aerospace sector.[279]

197.  While we welcome the efforts by industry to reduce their carbon emissions we are slightly concerned by the sheer number of different organisations and programmes working in this area. When we asked if so many separate initiatives were needed Mr Godden, from A|D|S, told us that he believed that there were benefits to be gained from bringing together a number of the existing programmes: "We should be putting those together and raising our game by doing so."[280] The Minister expressed a willingness to look at the range of existing programmes and said that while he was not "entirely clear about the different mechanisms"[281] he believed this should be reviewed.

It is obviously a very complex area, aerospace, because of the international obligations that exist, and it does mean that we have to combine both domestic pressures with the international obligations that we have, so it is often very difficult to create a simplified system. If there is anything that we can do to try to make that easier for the industry as a whole then we will certainly try.[282]

198.  In addition to financial support for "green" research the Government has also been considering the potential for using motorsport to challenge people's perception of environmental issues. In a speech he gave to the European Cleaner Racing Conference, Lord Drayson said:

Motorsport can lend the necessary street cred to going green. You represent the best possible response to Top Gear ridicule—to move the low-carbon story away from lentils, sandals and self-sacrifice.[283]

Industry is also aware of this potential benefit. Mr Aylett told us:

Winning in motorsport actually makes energy efficiency cool. If you can win Le Mans in an energy efficient manner, as Audi did, you will definitely do so.

199.  Both motorsport and aerospace are engaged in a plethora of initiatives aimed at improving their environmental record and "greening" their technologies. However, both industries remain of the view that Government does not fully recognise these initiatives. Government and the industries need to co-operate fully to better articulate the "green" initiatives currently under development in motorsport and aerospace.

200.   We also agree with the Government that motorsport has the potential to shift the debate about carbon emissions away from a dry conversation about carbon budgets, towards a more valuable debate on the role that technology and innovation can play in addressing climate change and green issues. We welcome the fact the Government is considering this as an area of action.

269   Q 84  Back

270   Visit to Silverstone, see Annex Back

271   EV 123 Back

272   Q 364 Back

273   Ev 67 Back

274   Q 366 Back

275   http://www.omega.mmu.ac.uk/  Back

276   http://www.greenerbydesign.org.uk/home/index.php  Back

277   http://www.sustainableaviation.co.uk/  Back

278   "Advanced Manufacturing - Building Britain's Future", Department for Business, Innovation and Skills press release, 28 July 2009 Back

279   Q 84 Back

280   Q120 Back

281   Q 370 Back

282   Q 370 Back

283   http://www.bis.gov.uk/cleaner-racing-conference Back

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