Product has been added to the basket

Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy - Response to the Industrial Strategy Green Paper

Following on from the renaming of the Department of Businesss, Innovation and Skills to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) last year, BEIS published an Industrial Strategy Green Paper in January 2017.  The green paper sets out the Government's approach to improving living standards and economic growth by increasing productivity and driving growth across the whole country through a set of 10 'pillars'.

The paper was published for consultation and the Geological Society submitted a response that covered many of the questions raise in the consultation.You can read the Industrial Strategy Green Paper on the Gov.UK website.

The submission produced by the Geological Society can be found below:

Submitted 13 April 2017


1. Does this document identity the right areas of focus: extending our strengths; closing the gaps; and making the UK one of the most competitive places to start or grow a business?

The Green paper outlines plans in a number of important areas that are critical to supporting growth across the whole of the UK, developing and sustaining skills, driving research and innovation and improving productivity. While the strategy is ambitious in its breadth, there are a few key areas missing from the scope of the report. In particular the strategy has limited detail on the delivery of green growth and focuses principally on driving down costs of clean energy and decarbonisation. There is little reference to the major energy infrastructure developments that will be required to deliver the aims of the strategy such as the implementation of Carbon Capture and Storage, the building of more nuclear power plants and the associated radioactive waste disposal facilities or the significant increase in renewable energy needed to deliver ‘clean growth’.

There is also no mention of the need to sustain a continued supply of natural resources for UK industrial development. Access to materials and minerals is central to industrial construction and manufacturing and this underpins many of the key components of the industrial strategy including infrastructure, science and innovation, clean energy and growth as well as driving growth across the whole country. Mined or extracted materials and minerals are essential for the development of many sectors of the economy and this is supported by a crucial minerals and materials industry dealing in extraction, manufacturing and processing materials and minerals. According to the UK Minerals Strategy produced by the Mineral Products Association, UK mineral extraction has a turnover of £15 billion, 16% of the UK total economy is directly attributable to minerals and there are 34,000 people employed directly in mineral extraction (  

There are also opportunities that are missed in terms of the wealth of world leading expertise and research that we have in the UK. We have strong research and industry networks and expertise in areas such as understanding of flooding and the management of exhausted natural resources assets both in oil and gas and mining that can be exported internationally. There is also a wealth of cross-industry expertise in areas such as satellite technology and earth observation as discussed later in our response that can provide world leading research and industrial application, to the UK’s benefit.  

The industrial strategy also needs to be part of a holistic approach to Government policy which requires adoption of an economic model that takes into account factors such as the environment and environmental change. Models for economic growth and productivity that do not include sustainability and environmental change will ultimately incur higher costs in the long-term.

Our response focuses on key areas that are absent in the green paper that have been highlighted to us by the geoscience community, as well as the skills networks and providers that will be required to support the commitments outlined in the strategy.  

2. Are the 10 pillars suggested the right ones to tackle low productivity and unbalanced growth? If not, which areas are missing?

No comment.

3. Are the right central government and local institutions in place to deliver an effective industrial strategy? If not, how should they be reformed? Are the types of measures to strengthen local institutions set out here and below the right ones?

No comment.

4. Are there important lessons we can learn from the industrial policies of other countries which are not reflected in these ten pillars?

No comment. 

Pillar 1 – Investing in Science, research and innovation.

5. What should be the priority areas for science, research and innovation investment?

Investment in Science and Research  

The document sets out a bold and positive strategy for the role of science, research and innovation in growing and developing the UK’s economy and we are pleased to see that they feature front and centre of the Government’s plans for improving economic growth, developing industry, raising the level of skills and reducing regional disparities in the UK. The additional £4.7 billion promised by 2020-2021 for R&D funding is a positive step and will help to reach the stated aims of driving economic and industrial growth. The positive link between government investment and private investment in science was demonstrated in a report produced by the Campaign for Science and Engineering ( in 2014 that was partly funded by the Geological Society. The report found that public expenditure on science and engineering research is an investment that generates economic growth and that there is a complementary relationship between industry and public sector research and development. The report calculated that for every £1 spent by government on R&D, private sector output rises by 20p per year in perpetuity, by raising the level of the UK knowledge base. In addition to the increase in funding, the introduction of the global challenges research fund to support research addressing challenges faced by developing countries is a welcome move. The consultation on priority challenges for the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and the move to establish a high-level forum on EU Exit, Universities, Research and Innovation are also welcomed. These initiatives will help Universities and the research sector to feed concerns or ideas directly into Government.

As highlighted in the report, not only industry funding of research but also the industrial application of research and innovation are key parts of the equation. Commercialisation and applicability of research is a key part of the role of research and innovation in society and there are numerous examples in the geoscience sector of good links between industry and research which can be built on and scaled up. These include optimisation of mineral, oil and gas extraction, development of carbon capture and storage, subsurface imaging technology, earth observation through GIS and remote sensing development and environmental management to list a few.

UK universities are among the best in the world and an increase in investment will further establish their position as the first port of call for international scientific and economic collaboration with the rest of the world. A key part of ensuring that economic growth and excellence flows from this investment will be to continue to match EU Horizon 2020 funding and to establish a flexible immigration policy that can allow for the interaction of UK scientists with international scientific communities. Many of the economic challenges we face in the wake of the decision to leave the European Union are complex and wide-ranging and will require a holistic approach to policy making and joined-up thinking across departments. In science and research, many of the societal challenges we face transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries and will require effective interdisciplinary working if they are to be effectively addressed. The move towards a greater focus on interdisciplinary research in the new UKRI structure should help to achieve this if it delivers what it promises.

Skills in Science and Research

The report includes the aim to ‘ensure that the UK attracts top international talent’ on the basis that academic ‘stars’ attract other researchers and private businesses as part of a multiplier effect. We agree that this will be an important part of sustaining the UK as a place of research excellence but want to raise some of the unintended consequences of the language used around this issue. There have been numerous references by the Prime Minister and other ministers to the need to attract the ‘brightest and best’ to come to this country. This term, and the narrative it relates to, may not be a particularly appealing phraseology to some people who would technically fit into that description. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many highly skilled, excellent individuals in the research sector do not self-identify with this term yet they are the very individuals we seek to attract and retain. More inclusive language would be more likely to appeal to women and those from disadvantaged or minority groups who have the vital skills needed by the UK but who might currently be put off.

While the strength of the UK Universities Sector and business infrastructure has attracted an excellent array of talent in research and innovation, an attempt to retain this inflow of skills is only part of the picture with regards to the skills required to maintain and improve excellence in the research sector. As identified in Pillar 2, there are a number of skills gaps in the UK workforce, many of which have been matters of serious concern over a long period of time. These include technically skilled individuals below graduate level, another group that may not self-identify with the term ‘brightest and best’, who form a key part of a thriving workforce working in research and innovation both in academia and industry. Acute gaps include skills such as basic numeracy and digital skills as listed in the strategy, skills obtained through years of experience in given sectors or those learned through specialised courses and Masters degrees. Many of these skills gaps have a long lead time and the roles associated with them sometimes require high-level, often postgraduate training to meet the demands of the job. Skills shortages require a long term view to be taken and consistent policy over a number of years beyond the electoral cycle to successfully ameliorate the issue.

There are a number of shortages in the geoscience sector, some of which are listed on the United Kingdom Shortage Occupation List (SOL: including engineering geologists, geotechnical engineers, hydrogeologists and geophysicists. The map of skills shortages is a complex, nuanced picture that is not best captured by creating a specific list of roles by job title such as the SOL. In 2012 the Geological Society commissioned a report on ‘Geoscience skills needs of UK industry’ (the report can be found on the Society website: Geoscience Skills Needs Report). Although this was published a few years ago, many of the skills shortages detailed in the report still stand. The report did not cover all geoscience relevant sectors but it did cover a number of essential key skills areas on which the UK economy depends. In some specialisms, the absolute numbers of appropriately skilled and trained personnel required is small – but these individuals are of critical importance to the UK economy. A few examples of groups of highly specialised skilled personnel that are highlighted in the report include: Processing geophysicists with 10-15 years’ experience, experienced petroleum geochemists with 15 years’ experience and senior geotechnical engineers. A key finding of the report which explains some of the long term issues currently affecting us is the following: ‘there is good evidence to suggest that businesses are investing in skills by recruiting and training graduates. However, this follows a period of around five years during which graduate recruitment was all but cancelled. Therefore, it is likely that in five years’ time there will be a further shortage of engineering geologists with 5-10 years’ experience.’

This sort of skills shortage cannot be fixed overnight but could have a significant impact on UK PLC. Industry, educators and professional and learned bodies, among others, are working to address these concerns, but government has an essential role to play in addressing structural issues. The flow of these specialised skills is imperative for businesses such as oil, gas and engineering companies which form a crucial part of the UK economy.Many of these are global businesses which could relocate their operations to countries in which the skilled personnel they need are readily available. If government wants that economic activity to remain in the UK then current and potential future skills shortages need to be addressed. There is little incentive for companies with global reach to campaign to address skills issues at a national level or to work to have particular roles included on the SOL. It is more likely that they will simply go elsewhere. As noted in the section on Developing Skills, the UK’s ‘failure to address skills shortages has increased our reliance on flows of migrant labour’ and this reliance will continue due to the time and investment needed to address these skills gaps. For this reason, in addition to focussing on developing skills through the industrial strategy, the Government needs to commit to joined up thinking with other relevant departments to design a flexible immigration policy in the wake of Brexit that will work with industrial policy to fill the skills gaps that will continue to exist in the medium term.

This will be essential for not just universities and research but also for business and industry. As it stands, our members report that it is extremely difficult and costly to bring talent into the UK. Companies and industries in the geoscience sector require experts in a wide variety of disciplines (both geological and non-geological) including digital skills and expertise in managing big data but the highly restricted availability of visas is a major issue. Together with the decision to leave the European Union, companies may be tempted to relocate abroad to where the required skills are more easily accessed. Geoscience in particular exports a large number of highly trained geoscientists due to the very international nature of our science. Current immigration policy can cause further issues if these geoscientists wish to come back to the UK to establish or grow businesses, as very often their business partners are not UK citizens and are unlikely to be admitted. This threatens to stifle the growth of businesses in the UK.

The introduction of an Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to support UK research and development could have a positive impact on a number of new areas and technologies that would benefit from government support. The strategy details a number of areas from which specific challenges could be drawn, including the example of the new research institution being reviewed by Sir Mark Walport to focus on battery technology and the link to electric vehicles, energy storage and grid technology. To secure sustainable progress and growth in any chosen research areas, attention has to be given to the supporting networks of skills, research and raw materials that go into the development of new technologies. For the example of electric vehicles, they run on large-capacity lithium-ion batteries which require a secure source of lithium, cobalt, graphite and nickel. Lithium is mined predominantly in Chile and Bolivia while cobalt has limited availability in nature with the majority of the world’s supplies located in conflict-prone Democratic Republic of the Congo. Lithium, graphite and cobalt all have smaller, less-established markets and so there are some long-term supply questions that remain unanswered.

There are possibilities for producing more of our specialist raw materials ourselves in the UK in some cases, but this requires the Government to support expertise and entrepreneurs, and also to join up primary raw materials with recycling, as part of our circular economy strategy. In addition, to secure access to these raw materials and resources there is a network of researchers and developers that support the locating and proving of resources, improving recovery and processing, and developing techniques for ore extraction in novel geological settings. This requires sustained investment in research in geoscience as well as continued collaboration between academia and industry to commercialise these findings and bring research findings into the field. This supporting structure to new and novel technologies illustrates the research networks that sit behind successful innovation.

It is important that initiatives such as those given particular prominence in the strategy are not looked at in isolation and that a holistic approach to research funding and stimulus to industry is taken. Looking at innovation and the linked networks together will ensure that innovation success is not imperilled by losing key support networks through lack of funding. Some industries and areas of economic activity not highlighted in the strategy will nonetheless remain essential if it is to succeed.

Geoscientific industries contribute to research projects both in universities and though other research organisations such as the British Geological Survey. There are numerous examples of geoscience being involved in successful scaling up of research and innovation and these can be further built on to improve commercialisation and application of research.

6. Which challenge areas should the Industrial Challenge Strategy Fund focus on to drive maximum economic impact?

Geoscience has an important role to play in a number of current and future challenges as we seek to manage important issues such as transport, infrastructure, housing, urbanisation, environmental change, secure access to resources and the constraints imposed by the environment we live in. Many of these challenges are interdisciplinary in nature and will benefit from the increased focus on interdisciplinary research. Many of the themes raised in the industrial strategy, particularly the theme of ‘resilience’, are created or impacted by the changes that are currently identified as being part of the ‘Anthropocene’. The UK has a strong research base in themes of resilience and change in the Anthropocene and is well placed to address the multiple effects of a changing world.

Living in the Anthropocene creates instability and uncertainty in a wide range of interconnecting areas of society such as secure access to resources (including water and food), protection against natural hazards such as flooding, coastal erosion and drought, the challenge of urbanisation, the future of cities and population growth, sustainable use of the subsurface as well as the overarching challenges posed by climate change. The scope for advancements in these areas is vast and the UK has the required strength in the research sector that would be needed to underpin investment and growth in this area. This is also an area where there are numerous social and economic benefits to be gained and where government investment, through bringing together sectors that have traditionally sat in silos, could create an impetus and make a significant difference to working and research structures.

This research area also has numerous links to other challenges in the strategy such as smart, flexible and clean energy technologies, satellites and space technologies through earth observation and imaging, manufacturing processes and materials of the future, and quantum technologies.

The plan to set out a UK Measurement Strategy with the aim of developing world-leading measurement science and technology and the focus on quantum technologies in the section on the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund has important links to the geophysics sector. This sector in turn supports the exploitation of natural resources, the protection of ground water and land use, and the engineered use of land for construction and critical infrastructure. Research and development into cutting-edge measurement and quantum technologies is welcomed and will further strengthen an important sector in the UK as well as driving economic growth in many downstream industries.

An important area in geophysics is the development of highly accurate gravity measurement and this was recently highlighted in the 2016 Government Office for Science report on The Quantum Age: technological opportunities. Many key industries in the UK such as civil engineering, resource exploitation and protection and security rely on advances in the research and development of gravity measurement technology, which support growth and innovation in these business areas. Recent developments in quantum technologies has allowed the very accurate measurements of minute changes in gravity, which can be used in engineering fields to image, understand and map the subsurface. This will have important implications for key sectors such as delivery of infrastructure, housing developments on brownfield sites, exploring for natural resources as well as identifying potential shallow surface hazards such as sinkholes (which currently have a significant cost). The advances in this sector are an excellent example of cross-disciplinary collaboration across geoscience, physics, systems engineering and civil engineering. This integrated success, which includes early establishment of market pull for commercial instruments is critical to the delivery of defence applications of the technology which include gravity array sensors.

The supply chain and commercial market for such instruments is the necessary vehicle to develop them ahead of adoption by UK defence, as demonstrated by the support and interest of MoD and DSTL in the emerging technology to date. In addition to the stated strengths of developing world-leading sectors, this is a useful example of where investment into highly technical research areas such as quantum technologies can engage the combined strength of the UK’s Research Councils and commercially funded research capability to deliver technology and applications which underpin the UK’s economic growth, productivity, prosperity and security.

In addition to quantum technologies, the report also raises satellites and space technologies as one of the areas from which a specific challenge could be drawn to be supported by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. There is significant potential in the UK’s satellites, Earth observation (EO) and space technology industry and this is an area where the UK could become a world leader in cutting-edge research, development and business. The UK has a great track record in the development of new EO based applications, tools and services, offered by UK entities to worldwide users.

Past investment in the research and development of new sensor technologies has seen advances in both optical and radar systems and led to UK companies building state of the art sensors and satellites. The development of these services has been aided by investment from the Government and led to a growth in the UK space sector over recent years. Ongoing support, via investment in the UK Space Agency, the Satellite Applications Catapult and the European Space Agency and the research lines they support, will allow continued development of services offered by UK business. It has been reported to us that there is an increase in businesses approaching the EO science community to explore the technology and to investigate whether it can offer benefits and solutions for their sector. Such new demands create more opportunities to develop space based applications.

This increase in ideas must be met with an increase in funding to test and develop these ideas. In the UK, we have the full value chain for EO: satellite builders, expertise in using the data (and developing new uses for the data such as high resolution 3D terrain modelling) and industry that wants to use the data such as oil and gas, mining, environmental monitoring, infrastructure etc. This expertise and business can be sold domestically as well as exported thereby supporting many aspects outlined in the Green paper. A step change in recent years has been the increased availability of free satellite data. This dramatically increases the uptake of the data and allows business to use the data to add value and therefore support the UK economy. Real time monitoring and imaging of the Earth’s surface is an area of research where there are increasing applications that could benefit a wide range of industries.

Significant progress has been made through the European Commission’s Copernicus programme which is made up of Earth observation satellites as well as in-situ sensors such as ground stations, airborne sensors and seaborne sensors. High resolution time-lapse images, video and radar imaging (that can ‘see’ through cloud cover) of the Earth with a high degree of granularity have a wide variety of applications, and produce big data that holds an enormous amount of detailed information about detectable changes in the atmosphere, in the oceans, on the Earth’s surface and in the shallow subsurface. There is also a lot of scope for detailed low-level earth observation using drones.

These types of monitoring can create geological dynamic information that can be used to address a number of societal challenges. Information about these changes is invaluable to engineering companies working in the subsurface, large-scale housing or industrial development, exploring for and understanding unconventional fuel sources and monitoring seismicity for the development of hydraulic fracturing and the construction of radioactive waste repositories. The volume and quality of satellite data and applications to use this data are therefore increasing. However, the value of this is limited if we do not have the infrastructure to support the exploitation of the data.

Another area that could benefit from government stimulus is the rollout of Carbon Capture and Storage. This forms part of the government’s policy on meeting legally binding climate change targets and is currently adrift after the government cancelled the CCS commercialisation competition in late 2015. See our response to question 27 for more detail.

These potential challenges that could be addressed through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund raise some broader questions about the structure of research funding and how it is administered. Much of the fundamental science and ‘blue-skies research’ that is carried out, particularly in the geoscience sector has myriad commercial or other applied uses but this link is not always made in the most useful or practical way. Much of the fundamental research and data collection in geoscience has alternative applications but this is not always optimised.

Comments we have received from those in the geoscience community suggest that it would be useful to have smaller pots of money built into research funding to support application of research results, designed as add-on projects to bigger research proposals. This would allow data and other outputs from fundamental science projects to be more readily processed into a form more useful in applied science.

This pairing of research funds could pull researchers into more strategic development of research proposals to include consideration of more applied aims or to develop technological findings to be useful to more than one disciplinary area. There is also an economic argument to be made for these kinds of funds, as they allow for progress to be made with the application of research without needing start up costs and they can contribute to a project that is already under way.  

7. What else can the UK do to create an environment that supports the commercialisation of ideas?

The geoscience research sector has good links with industry and the commercialisation of research output is high because of the significant component of applied science across many geoscience disciplines. The roots of this success are explained more thoroughly in the section on ‘Developing Skills’ under question 13.

One area where this has been particularly successful is the commercial developments drawn from research in the defence sector. Many of the post-war developments in geophysics such as marine and airborne magnetic and electromagnetic surveys and inertial navigation were a result of defence research. However, many of these commercially useful ideas take up to 10 years to emerge and to become known outside the closed circle of defence research. One area where this applies currently is the use of drones. The military are currently several years ahead of the commercial sector. Military to industrial technology transfer is often very successful but the time-lag should be borne in mind when thinking about commercialisation timescales.  

8. How can we best support the next generation of research leaders and entrepreneurs? 

No comment.

9. How can we best support research and innovation strengths in local areas?

We include a more detailed discussion on this point under Pillar 9, ‘Driving growth across the whole country’ but there are a few things to mention here in the context of research funding and investment. Geoscience, unlike other sciences such as Physics and Chemistry, is distinctive in being characterised by a high degree of idiographic research (that is, high-level research which is nonetheless to some extent restricted in time and space – focusing on a geological site or a period in Earth history, for example) and therefore many of the research locations and themes are dictated by the location of the specific geology. One example of where the location of geoscience research is part of regional economic and research stimulus is Aberdeen, as noted in the Green Paper, which has been the location of a successful cluster of research faculties and industry around exploration for offshore oil and gas. Another example of where clustering could stimulate regional research and innovation is the announcement by the government in 2014 to invest £31 million through the British Geological Survey to establish the Energy Security and Innovation Observing System for the Subsurface (ESIOS) the first of which will be located in Thornton, Cheshire as part of the Cheshire science corridor.

The research initiative will facilitate subsurface research activities relating to shale gas and also capture time-lapse data on a number of societal research areas such as groundwater monitoring, nuclear waste disposal, underground hydrogen and gas storage, geothermal energy and carbon capture and storage. This type of research facility located in an R&D cluster can strengthen research and innovation links in local areas, improve networked working between universities and industry, attract skilled individuals and drive growth in areas outside of the ‘golden triangle’. The location of the second facility has yet to be announced but these are examples of where geoscience research hubs can be built into regional science and innovation clusters that feed into a number of the stated aims of the Green Paper and provide stimuli for local growth, improving research networks and delivery of skills.  

Pillar 2 – Developing Skills  

10. What more can we do to improve basic skills? How can we make a success of the new transition year? Should we change the way that those resitting basic qualifications study, to focus more on basic skills excellence? 

We are pleased to see the emphasis on numeracy and digital skills in the green paper as these skills gaps have been raised with us by a number of employers in the geoscience sector. The creation of a new system of technical education including Institutes of Technology across the regions is also a welcome development. Many of the shortages identified in our community such as numeracy, modelling skills and skills in applied science and engineering, could be ameliorated in part by the suggestions put forward in the Green Paper.

11. Do you agree with the different elements of the vision for the new technical education system set out here? Are there further lessons from other countries’ systems? 

The plans to set up a new system of technical education will go some way to redress the shortage of high-skilled technicians below graduate level. Availability of these skills is a key component of the drive toward productivity and economic growth. We also agree with plans to test new approaches to lifelong learning and there is more about how the Geological Society is contributing to this in our response to Question 14.  

Provision of Skills through Postgraduate Education  

One key part in the delivery of high-level skills and the amelioration of STEM shortages in the economy is the availability and affordability of specialised Masters courses at UK universities. We welcomed the roll out in 2016 of the Government’s initiative to introduce Postgraduate loans for Masters courses to assist with course fees and living costs. This will have a positive impact on the ability of students to take up Masters courses but issues remain and the uncertainty around Brexit will raise more questions around the stability of important Postgraduate courses.

Across the geosciences, many of the employment opportunities are high-value jobs requiring expertise in geoscientific, engineering and other disciplines. Increasingly, a taught applied MSc is a de facto prerequisite for entry to many of these careers. These individuals are in competition for opportunities in the UK and elsewhere with their peers from around the world, and the trained workforce in many geo-industries is highly mobile. The UK has a reputation for producing world-leading geoscientists trained to postgraduate level. However a number of MSc programmes in disciplines needed in the geoscience industries are under threat and may close unless this asset is nurtured, jeopardising the supply of trained scientists on which UK industry depends.

From an individual geoscience subject perspective, the impact on individual MSc courses is mixed. We have received reports over the last 5 years that many Petroleum related courses such as Petroleum Geoscience and Petroleum Engineering are well funded from industry sponsorship but conversely, Petroleum Geophysics courses are suffering more. This highlights the problem of what happens when industry fails to assist financially in the provision of vocational Masters courses. The oil industry has slowly made the MSc qualification the basic degree for entry to professional graduate programmes and anything less leads only to jobs in the technical assistant category, so it is important that financial support for MScs is sustained.

The water industry, however, is much more fragmented with companies not generally large enough to support studentships and so MScs such as Hydrogeology are becoming increasingly vulnerable. Programmes may also come under threat as a result of individual universities making strategic choices in response to intended or unintended incentives resulting from higher education policy initiatives. This was starkly visible when the MSc in Hydrogeology at the University of Birmingham University, a very highly regarded course by those in the relevant industries both nationally and internationally, recently came under threat in 2015. The proposal to discontinue the MSc course in Hydrogeology was met with significant concern throughout the geoscience community as this course is nearly alone in delivering important hydrogeological skills to the UK workforce. The course was eventually reprieved, due in no small part to the response of the community, but as this came with the decision to discontinue Hydrogeology research, the feasibility of maintaining the quality of the course in the long term is limited, and this may still lead to its eventual demise. This proposal was part of a review of the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Science’s research activity aimed at strengthening their research standing and investing in a few narrow areas of research excellence.

The strategic reviews carried out by the University were ultimately directed by Government drivers around research, and it is not the responsibility of an individual institution to take national skills needs into consideration when managing their own research and teaching priorities. The loss of this course would nonetheless have been a significant issue for UK skills because as already mentioned, the role of ‘Hydrogeologist’ is still listed on the Shortage Occupation List. The provision and sustainability of Masters courses is an area where granularity in skills policy would significantly benefit the overall aims of the industrial strategy. This would allow flexibility in the use of government levers to support these smaller but important areas of research and skills to ensure the wider aims are achieved.

It is worth noting here that many of the highly regarded Masters programmes delivered by UK Universities are at risk from a number of the challenges posed by Brexit. A myriad of issues including security of EU national academic staff to remain, doubt over access to Horizon 2020 funding, a reduction in EU and non-EU students and the risk of academic flight could jeopardise the highly esteemed programme of Undergraduate and Postgraduate courses available in the UK which will in turn have a significant impact on the delivery of skills into UK industry and research.

One thing the Government can and should do immediately is guarantee the rights of EU nationals who form part of the international labour and education force we already have. We need their skills and their ability to train workers, and we should ensure that we keep these people and attract more, to get the best infrastructure that exceeds international standards, and the skills to maintain it. Many of these people have PhD-level qualifications and years of experience, so it will be a generation before they could be replaced by UK nationals, even if that were desirable.

12. How can we make the application process for further education colleges and apprenticeships clearer and simpler, drawing lessons from the higher education sector? 

No comment.

13. What skills shortages do we have or expect to have, in particular sectors or local areas, and how can we link the skills needs of industry to skills provision by educational institutions in local areas? 

Skills Shortages 

We have identified a number of skills gaps in earlier sections focussing on the lack of numeracy and digital skills in Undergraduates but also examples of key technical areas where the UK economy is in deficit such as Hydrogeology, Engineering Geology and technical specialists in a number of sectors with 10-15 years’ experience. One example of a skills gap which is particularly relevant in the oil and gas sector is that of Micropalaeontologists.

While the number of trained specialists in this field required by the UK oil and gas industry is small, they play an essential part in the exploration and production of hydrocarbons and also in drilling wells for their safe extraction. While even large oil companies might only employ a few Micropalaeontologists (or will purchase modest amounts of consultancy in this area), their community represents a valuable element of national capability. Failure to maintain this small but vital element of national capability is likely to have very serious long-term economic effects. There is currently only one UK MSc programme in Applied Micropalaeontology at Birmingham, but its continued viability will depend on its ability to recruit students (as well as the institution’s willingness to continue to offer it), and securing funding will be key to this. Where there is an ageing population of skilled people, the disappearance of MSc programmes could lead to near-total loss of such national capability in the next few years – this is a real danger in many vital but numerically small specialisms.

There are many good examples in the UK of effective interactions with industry in geoscience university departments. This is not present everywhere but there are a few examples of best practice that we thought would be worth raising here to show that these partnerships are possible and successful. Connections between geoscience departments and industry facilitate the aims of the Industrial Strategy in a number of ways. They provide avenues for input on research design that facilitates commercialisation of research.

They also provide students with opportunities to partake in work experience and internship programmes which expose them to the environment and skills requirements of the industrial sector. This collaboration helps to ensure that undergraduate and postgraduate education meets the needs of industry in terms of the supply of skilled workers. Some Universities maintain advisory boards, particularly for Masters courses, where representatives from the university and industry meet to discuss the content and format of courses to ensure they meet the needs of the relevant industry. Notable university geoscience departments that maintain successful relationships with industry include Imperial College, Leeds University, the University of Nottingham and Portsmouth University.

Imperial College‘s Department of Earth Science and Engineering maintains strong links with companies in engineering, oil and gas, mining and environmental consultancy, many of which are represented on their advisory board to input into the Masters programmes provided at the college. They maintain regular contact with industry to ensure that the Masters degrees are fit for purpose. The links they maintain have facilitated the numerous internship, fieldwork and technical work placements they can offer their students which further prepare undergraduates and postgraduates for work post-graduation, and Imperial students are consistently heralded by industry as possessing a high level of relevant skills.

Leeds University has developed a specialism in Geotechnical Engineering through its Masters programme that is shared between the School of Earth and Environment and the School of Civil Engineering. This is made possible through their strong links with companies such as Atkins, Mott MacDonald and Wardell Armstrong who sit on the University’s Industry Advisory Board.

Portsmouth University is unusual in offering a vocational undergraduate degree in Engineering Geology and Geotechnics. This is taught as a sandwich programme, with the third year spent working in industry, often at one of nine companies offering bursaries to students throughout their degree. This industrial bursary scheme is supported by the Geological Society, and is highly valued by students and employers alike. Many graduates from the programme take jobs with the company with which they are placed, and they are in great demand from industry as a result of their relevant skills and experience, despite often not having strong A-level results. Some of these companies are now working with Portsmouth to explore the possibility of developing an Apprenticeship Degree programme in Engineering Geology.

The University of Nottingham run an Engineering Doctoral Centre where students work towards an EngD (a more applied version of a PhD) in Efficient Fossil Energy Technologies, aimed at offering research engineers the chance to train as industry experts. This equips students with the knowledge and expertise to carry out cutting-edge research while working in multi-disciplinary teams. Research themes include specialist technical aspects of power generation and carbon capture and storage. This is just another way that universities are working to train highly-skilled graduates and to meet the needs of industry in providing skills. These sorts of innovative centres can tackle major national and international challenges while bridging the gap both across disciplinary silos and the so-called ‘valley of death’ across academia and industry. All of these examples serve as good models for the ways that skills delivery can be maximised through universities and these can run in parallel to the plans to develop the more technical programmes detailed in the Green Paper.

14. How can we enable and encourage people to retrain and upskill throughout their working lives, particularly in places where industries are changing or declining? Are there particular sectors where this could be appropriate?

We welcome plans to improve and develop lifelong learning as this is something in which the Geological Society is closely involved through our Chartership, Accreditation and Continued Professional Development programmes. The Geological Society (GSL) is the UK’s learned and professional body for geoscience, with over 12,000 Fellows (members) worldwide. As part of our commitment to maintaining high professional standards for the public benefit and to support lifelong learning, we offer the title of Chartered Geologist. This designation indicates to clients, regulators, employers and the general public that the holder is a competent person at a high professional level. We also promote high professional standards and lifelong learning by providing and certifying training and guidance through our programme of Continuing Professional Development.

In addition to this programme, we support a number of post-chartership Professional Registers with partner organisations. These include a Register of Ground Engineering Professionals that is maintained in partnership with the Institution of Civil Engineers, Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, the British Geotechnical Association and the Ground Forum, and the Specialist in Land Condition register. Increasingly, we also accredit company training schemes, building on our well-established undergraduate and postgraduate degree accreditation scheme. 

As an organisation, the professional accreditation and registers we offer are one of the central pillars of our role in supporting geoscience, the profession and society more widely. It has great value among employers and practitioners and creates public benefit through the high bar of knowledge, professionalism and competency it delivers. Chartered status is a well-established benchmark of competence and skills and there is good recognition of the various Chartership programmes operated by STEM institutions. The network of learned and professional bodies that deliver Chartership and associated programmes have a strong and long-standing commitment to maintaining professional standards and this is something that should be much more strongly recognised and built upon in the discussion of skills and benchmarking in the context of the industrial strategy.

Pillar 3 – Upgrading Infrastructure

As part of producing its National Infrastructure Assessment, the National Infrastructure Commission has issued a detailed call for evidence, seeking views from stakeholders on a range of questions about UK infrastructure policy. The National Infrastructure Commission’s call for evidence is open until 10 February 2017. The questions below seek to complement this work.

15. Are there further actions we could take to support private investment in infrastructure? 

The section on Upgrading Infrastructure details a number of important initiatives that would benefit from greater government investment. The plans to invest in digital infrastructure, housing infrastructure and flood defences are all welcome but there are some notable omissions in the context of the rest of the themes raised in the Green Paper. The infrastructure pillar does not include any focus on energy infrastructure or the developments that are required to support the Government’s plans for an increase in nuclear power capacity, notably the storage and disposal of nuclear waste as well as the building of new nuclear power stations – both very significant infrastructure projects. There is also no reference to the next steps in implementing Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) or an alternative energy strategy that could replace the need for CCS in line with the commitments outlined in the Climate Change Act, and the need to avoid dangerous climate change.

The need for rapid rollout of CCS was reiterated in the Energy and Climate Change Committee Report on the Future of Carbon Capture and Storage, published in 2016. The committee concluded the following: ‘Without CCS it may be necessary to find large and potentially more expensive carbon savings to meet the legally binding targets set out in the Climate Change Act as well as the more recent challenging ambitions set out at the Paris climate summit’. We provide further detail on the area of CCS and Geological Disposal of Radioactive Waste in our response to question 27 but also wanted to raise it in the context of UK infrastructure as it is relevant to both pillars.

16. How can local infrastructure needs be incorporated within national UK infrastructure policy most effectively?

No comment.

17. What further actions can we take to improve the performance of infrastructure towards international benchmarks? How can government work with industry to ensure we have the skills and supply chain needed to deliver strategic infrastructure in the UK?

Holistic Infrastructure Development 

Sustainable access to resources is critical for the development of infrastructure. Infrastructure is inherently resource-dependent and the impacts of access to resources as well as the environmental and social footprints they leave behind are important to consider. Almost all our natural resources come from the ground (or, if we grow them, depend on resources in or from the ground). In addition to the secure supply of materials such as aggregates needed for road building, limestone for cement and the sand, gravel and road salt needed for domestic and industrial uses, there are also a number of key materials required for the development and building of many renewable technologies.

A significant number of the resources used in technologies such as photovoltaic cells and wind turbines are necessarily located and sourced from particular geological locations around the world. These materials can be considered to have inherent ‘material miles’ (akin to ‘food miles’) which affect security of access, cost (and therefore economic viability) and environmental and social impacts. This needs to be incorporated into the design and planning stages. Once completed, the running of any given development will also incur an environmental footprint caused by the incorporation of natural resources. This must also be considered in terms of risk to the environment. For some categories of infrastructure such as waste disposal, including radioactive waste disposal, consideration must be given to material stability over timescales far greater than those of almost all existing manmade physical and social structures.

We welcome the focus in the Green Paper on the importance of resilient infrastructure that can support economic growth but also withstand the many facets of environmental change over the long term. There are a number of drivers both now and in the future that will contribute to decisions made on infrastructure projects, some of which will require the technical expertise of the geoscience community. Important cross-boundary issues such as environmental change, sustainable use of resources and land and sustainable management of the environment including non run-off flooding (e.g. groundwater flooding) and groundwater management all have a bearing on current and future generations and must feed into the planning and implementation of critical infrastructure projects. Such issues will be important in the development of infrastructure that directly addresses these issues (such as carbon capture and storage) as well as underwriting the planning, design and implementation of other projects.

As we seek to live more sustainably and equitably on our planet, these types of drivers will become increasingly important at every stage of infrastructure planning and development. Considerations such as the CO2 footprint of a development and its ongoing CO2 running costs will need to be incorporated, in addition to the sustainable supply of natural resources for construction, and the ongoing environmental and social impact of its usage. These considerations are likely to become more critical in the coming decades as environmental change intensifies and this foresight should be built into the remit of all long-term infrastructure projects.

Sustainable design, planning and implementation of infrastructure will also require an assessment of the building and running costs of the project in terms of natural capital. A more holistic approach to management of the environment and natural capital is going to be required if we are to move towards living sustainably in the coming decades. An often omitted but critical component of natural capital and ecosystem services approaches is a consideration of the abiotic services that support life and the environment such as the prevalent geology, soil types, hydrogeology and subsurface geochemistry.

Recognising and understanding the interaction between these and other aspects of environments and ecosystems is vital if such approaches to environmental policy-making and management are to be effective. Conversely, if a holistic ecosystem services based approach is espoused but is incompletely implemented, because abiotic and particularly subsurface aspects are relatively neglected, it will not succeed. Inclusion of steps such as setting up a circular economy for waste recycling and sustainable use of resources will be essential. This requires cross-sectoral coordination and changes in policy will be needed to facilitate this type of interconnected industry.

Another important driver in thinking about future infrastructure requirements is the sustainable use of the subsurface itself as we seek to live sustainably in a world with increasing pressures on space and resources. As the trend of increased urbanisation continues, sustainable use of space, particularly in the subsurface, will become increasingly pertinent. The Society held a meeting on this theme in 2015 at which the Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir Mark Walport, spoke. It explored the dynamic environmental system in the subsurface and the complexity of designing and building physical infrastructure (transport, utilities, building foundations, etc.), including storage facilities for resources (such as energy and water) and waste (such as heat, CO2 and radioactive waste).

Subsurface infrastructure is impacted by a range of activity such as tectonic instability, non run-off flooding and rock strength. Design of such infrastructure requires an extensive range of geological expertise, from engineering geology, near surface geophysics and rock mechanics to understanding hydrogeology, contaminated land and groundwater and, in the case of radioactive waste disposal, structural geology, geochemistry and biogeochemistry.


The main constraints from a geological perspective in the coming years and decades are around the availability of technical skills, both geological and non geological, and required natural resources. We have included a lot of information on the relevant skills gaps earlier in this submission in our responses to questions 5, 11 and 13 and there is a significant body of documentation available produced by the science policy sector and government bodies such as the migration advisory committee on the skills gap. Availability of skills is affected by a number of government policies, many of which are currently uncertain (in flux or under review) such as immigration; higher education (including tuition fees and support for vocational postgraduate degrees); apprenticeships and diversity and inclusion in education. These areas will continue to impact, whether negatively or positively, on the availability of skills to carry out such infrastructure projects. Continuing uncertainty is highly destabilising and makes long term planning by government, industry and others extremely difficult.


The paper makes reference to the National Flood Resilience Review and a plan to invest £170 million in flood defences. Flood resilience is a key area for investment and we are pleased to see this is included in a high level policy document such as this. However, it is not just defences that we need to bolster, it is also our understanding of why flooding occurs and how to mitigate the risks (i.e. outcomes of flooding). This is especially important for insurance companies, planning authorities and home owners themselves to understand the natural world around them. One key aspect of flooding that is missing from the Review is the contribution of groundwater to flooding risk (including through interaction with surface waters) and also the risk of groundwater flooding as a standalone issue. We have been active in trying to raise awareness of groundwater flooding, in addition to surface and river flooding, in our responses to government policy documents over the last few years, particularly following the widespread groundwater flooding events in the south and south-west of the UK in February 2014.

The National Flooding Resilience Review only makes passing reference to groundwater flooding in the context of scientific advice received during the collation of the review. Described as a ‘hidden threat’, it is estimated that 122,000 – 290,000 properties in England are at risk of groundwater flooding. We are very concerned that the prevailing practice of treating flooding mechanisms independently has led to a fragmented approach to regulation and management of flood risk. Omission of the contribution of groundwater (alone and through its interaction with other elements of the system) to flood management and planning prevents adequate estimation of flood risks as the basis for planning sensible responses. This has also resulted in a lack of capability in the flood risk management community to fully consider or communicate the potential risks posed by groundwater behaviour to the public, an area that can have significant implications for insurers due to the subsurface and basement flooding caused by changes in groundwater behaviour.

Pillar 4 – Supporting businesses to start and grow

18. What are the most important causes of lower rates of fixed capital investment in the UK compared to other countries, and how can they be addressed? 

We are not well placed to comment on the complexities of fixed capital investment but it is worth including here the need to take both capital and recurrent expenditure into account when planning one-off investments. Plans for new projects and investments need to pay attention to running and maintenance costs to better reflect the true cost of capital projects, and to ensure that capital expenditure does not go to waste because of lack of revenue resources to sustain effective use of facilities.

In terms of geoscience industry, London is currently the source of capital investment for very many global mining projects. According to the Natural Resource Governance Institute there are currently 362 extractive companies listed on the London Stock Exchange and there is a high volume of investors with skills in geoscience located in London. They are experts in investing in geoscience and growth in these areas, to the great advantage of the UK.

19. What are the most important factors which constrain quoted companies and fund managers from making longer term investment decisions, and how can we best address these factors?

The boom-and-bust cycles of oil prices and mineral commodities have implications for utilisation of equipment and skills. The technology and equipment used in these industries are often highly specialised and can be very costly. Additionally, many of the skills needs in these sectors have long development times. This means that when these industries go through low periods of growth and productivity there can be an exodus of skilled personnel and specialised equipment can go to waste. In the long-term the fossil fuel sector will need to shrink to meet our global climate change obligations, e.g. so that oil production is used principally for the making of plastics and chemicals, but fossil fuels will continue to be used for fuel and more importantly heat in the medium-term (that is, for many years to come).

We need to support the effective transfer of these skilled individuals to other areas of economic and societal need so this valuable human resource asset is not lost. There will also be overlap between these skilled areas and the increasing need for environmental protection long after these industries have gone, for instance in understanding the effects of old mines on groundwater flow and contaminant transport, preventing pollution from abandoned extraction points of oil, gas and other ground resources, and planning clean up or isolation of contaminated sites, including radioactive contamination. This is particularly so where new housing or infrastructure is planned on or near old extraction sites.

There are also a number of areas where there is significant uncertainty about liability for very long-term risk, disincentivising investment. In these instances, Government is in a unique position to underwrite long-term risks, to stimulate innovation for national economic benefit. There is more discussion on this under our response to question 27.

20. Given public sector investment already accounts for a large share of equity deals in some regions, how can we best catalyse uptake of equity capital outside the South East? 

No comment. 

21. How can we drive the adoption of new funding opportunities like crowdfunding across the country?

No comment.

22. What are the barriers faced by those businesses that have the potential to scale-up and achieve greater growth, and how can we address these barriers? Where are the outstanding examples of business networks for fast growing firms which we could learn from or spread?

No comment. 

Pillar 5 – Improving Procurement  

23. Are there further steps that the Government can take to support innovation through public procurement? 

No comment. 

24. What further steps can be taken to use public procurement to drive the industrial strategy in areas where government is the main client, such as healthcare and defence? Do we have the right institutions and policies in place in these sectors to exploit government’s purchasing power to drive economic growth?

One area of concern regarding security of supply and procurement which links to many of the high-level themes raised in the strategy such as infrastructure development and innovative technologies is the security of access to minerals and raw materials. Access to natural resources, whether that be within the UK or through trade deals with other nations, is crucial in underpinning a significant proportion of the aims outlined in the Industrial Strategy, to all manufacturing industry, and to much other economic activity. Infrastructure is inherently resource-dependent and the impact of access to resources, as well as the environmental and social footprints they leave behind, are important to consider.  

A document is currently being prepared by the UK Mineral Extraction Industry facilitated by the CBI Minerals Group and the Mineral Products Association which examines the supply of minerals and raw materials in the medium to long-term in line with the plans outlined in the Industrial Strategy in the form of a UK Minerals Strategy. We responded to the draft version of the document and from what we have seen thus far the document is far from complete or satisfactory in its assessment of UK resource needs and how this can be managed in the coming decades.

Nonetheless this may be a useful document for the government to consult in its final form for more information on the UK’s mineral needs and how these can be met in the context of diminishing resources, sustainable management of the environment, the fluctuating economics of extraction and production and climate change. Additionally, the Society is involved in a major initiative being organised by the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) entitled ‘Resourcing Future Generations’ ( which is aimed at ‘securing the mineral, energy and water resources required by future generations’. This is a useful initiative which links long-term access to minerals with UK policy initiatives on economic growth, international development and environment and climate change policy.  

Pillar 6 – Encouraging trade and inward investment 

25. What can the Government do to improve our support for firms wanting to start exporting? What can the Government do to improve support for firms in increasing their exports? 

No comment.

26. What can we learn from other countries to improve our support for inward investment and how we measure its success? Should we put more emphasis on measuring the impact of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) on growth? 

No comment. 

Pillar 7 – Delivering affordable energy and clean growth

27. What are the most important steps the Government should take to limit energy costs over the long term? 

Energy Infrastructure 

Energy strategy and clean growth is presented in the Green Paper in the context of affordable energy and cost-effective routes to decarbonisation in the power and industrial sectors but we were surprised to see little mention of the energy infrastructure that will be required to support these aims, nor commitments and actions around clean growth in the context of the Climate Change Act.

One area of energy infrastructure that was not mentioned that links to a number of points raised in the strategy is the Government’s commitment to implementing geological disposal for the safe and secure management of higher-activity radioactive waste. The fulfilment of this policy requires the development of complex infrastructure and access to highly-skilled personnel to locate and build one or more repositories. Development of these facilities is important for a number of reasons; 1) to deal with legacy waste that is currently being stored in interim surface storage facilities; 2) the safe disposal of committed waste that will arise from nuclear power plants already running or in development and 3) future waste relating to the nuclear new build power capacity included in plans for the UK’s future energy mix. Radioactive waste disposal is therefore a critical limiting factor in delivering green growth and emissions targets through increased development of nuclear power plants. It is essential to dispose of higher level nuclear waste in a way that is safe for people and the environment.

A key component of the Government’s drive towards emission reductions and clean growth is the implementation of Carbon Capture and Storage Technology (CCS). This was recently underlined in the Report of the Parliamentary Advisory Group on CCS which states that ‘carbon capture and storage is an essential component in delivering lowest cost decarbonisation across the whole UK economy’ and that ‘heavy costs will be imposed on current and future UK consumers by a continued failure to enact an effective CCS policy’. The Institute of Civil Engineering’s recent report on ‘National Needs Assessment’ also recommended that energy security strategies, including CCS, be part of the National Infrastructure Assessment that is currently ongoing. CCS technology and infrastructure has long been discussed as a central part of the UK’s energy mix in order to meet legally binding decarbonisation targets outlined in the Climate Change Act and those set out in the Paris Agreement, and to prevent dangerous climate change.

Currently, the government’s policy in this area is hanging in the balance following the cancellation of the CCS commercialisation competition. Officially, CCS continues to have a ‘potentially important’ role in this government’s energy policy, although there is no indication of what would fill its place should it not be delivered at scale by 2030. It is the view of many in the sector, including the former House of Commons Energy and Climate Change (ECC) Committee, that it is critical infrastructure for the future of the UK’s energy security and for meeting decarbonisation targets. In their 2016 report on the ‘Future of carbon capture and storage in the UK’, they stated that if we stick to the 'with gas and without CCS' scenario we will not remain on or near the least cost path to our statutory decarbonisation target. The retraction of the funding allocated to the CCS commercialisation competition damages the relationship between Government and industry. If the government does not set out a clear strategy very soon, knowledge, investment, assets (including depleted hydrocarbon reservoirs and associated infrastructure which will otherwise soon be decommissioned) and expertise in the UK will be lost.

CCS requires national and local infrastructure planning to make the most of current capacity. This will require integrated regional and local planning to deliver CO2 to geologically suitable storage locations. In addition to the technology which is now established, the next step is to develop key infrastructure to link the capture sites to transport infrastructure and storage sites in order to demonstrate the technology and delivery chain at scale. This is the key part of the delivery chain that requires focus and political momentum to move this development forward.

As with many innovation projects, early on the costs are high but this will decrease significantly over time as technology deployment matures and with more infrastructure already in place. The concentration of skills and infrastructure in the North Sea could create the conditions for the UK to become a world leader in CCS research and development. There is also scope to use exhausted oil and gas reservoirs around the UK in the North Sea and elsewhere as ‘storage tanks’ for gas as part of a focus on new energy storage technology. CCS falls into an increasing number of areas where there is significant uncertainty around liability for very long-term risk (beyond human lifetimes).

Current market and regulatory structures pose a significant deterrent to commercial companies wanting to invest in such initiatives, as they find themselves facing unknown and very poorly constrained liabilities over timeframes which existing risk strategies cannot easily accommodate. Government is in a unique position to underwrite much of the long-term risk around areas such as CCS development where industry is reticent to undertake such risks, and indeed is not set up to do, to benefit the UK economy as well as meet social and environmental needs. If government could take on such liabilities it could unlock the stall in progress and incentivise investment. We note that the North Sea oil and gas industry of the last half century was not simply the product of uncoordinated commercial entities responding to market forces and emerging knowledge of natural resources – government provided vital stimuli, underwriting and ‘system design’ for elements of the energy system. The resulting economic benefits to the UK have been enormous. 

Natural Resource Requirements

As mentioned under question 24, there are also resource implications for investment into low carbon technology such as the Siemens turbine-blade plant that is referenced in the report. Many of the natural resources used in renewable energy technologies such as wind turbines are located and sourced from around the world. The location of these resources is determined by geology – we cannot simply decide to get them elsewhere. For example, photovoltaic cells used in solar panels require both mined quartzite and cadmium. Large wind turbines can use up to 2 tonnes of high-strength magnets which are made up of ~ 30% Rare Earth Elements and in 2016, China produced about 83% of the world’s supply of Rare Earth Elements. Secure access to the required raw materials needs to be built into innovation investment plans.

28. How can we move towards a position in which energy is supplied by competitive markets without the requirement for ongoing subsidy?
No comment.

29. How can the Government, business and researchers work together to develop the competitive opportunities from innovation in energy and our existing industrial strengths?
No comment.

30. How can the Government support businesses in realising cost savings through greater resource and energy efficiency?
No comment.

Pillar 8 – Cultivating world leading sectors  

31. How can the Government and industry help sectors come together to identify the opportunities for a ‘sector deal’ to address – especially where industries are fragmented or not well defined? 

Successful cultivation of new world leading sectors, as well as maintaining the ones we already have, requires thinking about the full value chain of sectors and initiatives and taking into consideration full-lifecycle perspectives. One area where there is considered thinking about the full value chain is the area of earth observation and satellite technology. The UK has a great track record in earth observation from research and development through to satellite builders and expertise in using data in industrial applications. This has yielded a lot of success in the space sector with opportunities to sell aspects of this business both domestically and abroad. This holistic approach to the development of current and nascent sectors will allow benefits and deficits in terms of value to be assessed through the full cycle of research, innovation, development, implementation and any outputs along the way including waste and environmental footprints. Value chain thinking would help to stitch all of these different sector components together and is key to reducing uncertainty and developing sustainable industry.  

32. How can the Government ensure that ‘sector deals’ promote competition and incorporate the interests of new entrants?

No comment.

33. How can the Government and industry collaborate to enable growth in new sectors of the future that emerge around new technologies and new business models?

We have made responses relevant to the theme of new sectors in answers to previous questions including CCS (question 27), and in our response to question 9.
We also reiterate the need to bear the natural resource footprint and secure access to minerals in mind when working on early sector deals mentioned in the paper such as ultra-low emission vehicles and industrial digitalisation. If raw materials needs are taken for granted and are not attended to, these initiatives are liable to fail.

Pillar 9 – Driving growth across the whole country

34. Do you agree the principles set out above are the right ones? If not what is missing?

There are several examples of sectors, infrastructure projects and investment in technologies that we have raised at other points in the response that have significant potential to contribute to regional or local growth.

CCS is an example of an emerging opportunity for innovation and growth which will necessarily be highly regional because of the geospatial distribution both of CO2 sources (energy generation and other industrial sources) and of storage capacity capable of development (depleted hydrocarbons reservoirs in the North Sea, for instance, but also other suitable geological formations). This presents challenges to implementation of CCS at scale, but also significant opportunities to develop innovation clusters, to stimulate university-industry capabilities at a regional level, and to fuel regional economic growth. See further information in our response to question 27.

For examples of clusters of technical expertise and skills that could further drive regional growth please see our response to question 38.

35. What are the most important new approaches to raising skill levels in areas where they are lower? Where could investments in connectivity or innovation do most to help encourage growth across the country?

No comment. 

Pillar 10 – Creating the right institutions to bring together sectors and places.

36. Recognising the need for local initiative and leadership, how should we best work with local areas to create and strengthen key local institutions?

No comment. 

37. What are the most important institutions which we need to upgrade or support to back growth in particular areas?

Cultural institutions such as museums, National Parks, science centres and protected areas inspire children and adults to learn, improvise and challenge themselves, and these institutions should be maintained and supported. There is more information on the value of museums and collections in the Society’s statement on this area published last year: This statement highlights the benefits and contributions that museums, particularly local and regional institutions, make to society through their use in research, education, preservation of UK heritage and public outreach.

38. Are there institutions missing in certain areas which we could help create or strengthen to support local growth?

The Society is active in supporting regional growth and development through its network of regional groups of which there are 16 around the UK, something that is replicated in many of our sister scientific and professional organisations. These groups play a valuable role in supporting effective industrial development for economic and societal benefit and delivery of professional development throughout the UK and have done so for the last 200 years. Many of the clusters of geoscience expertise listed in this response are reflected in the make-up and activities of our highly active Regional Groups in these areas.

There are a number of geoscience skills and expertise hubs around the country that already exist that could further seed clusters of businesses and research investment outside the south east and the ‘golden triangle’. Some potential examples are listed in our response to question 13. These areas could benefit from the commitments listed in the report such as a review of the location of government agencies, the potential leveraging of government and Research Council laboratories and support for networks of universities. Other clusters of geoscience expertise around the UK include:

  1. Aberdeen – As discussed in our response to question 27, there is currently a wealth of knowledge and assets pertaining to oil and gas exploration and extraction in the north-east of Scotland. Many of the skills and infrastructure associated with oil and gas are transferable to development of a Carbon Capture and Storage industry. If a strategy for investment in this area is not rolled out soon then these skills will be lost and the infrastructure will be decommissioned.
  2. Midlands – In addition to the highly regarded MSc in Hydrogeology at Birmingham University (for more information see the answer to question 11) the Midlands also has a cluster of environmental and water management consultancies.
  3. Leeds – Leeds University has developed a specialism in geotechnical engineering which includes skills that will be crucial for transforming transport and connectivity in the region as part of plans associated with the ‘Northern Powerhouse’.
  4. South Wales – There is a high concentration of skills and knowledge around mining and Earth resources in South Wales. The mining legacy in this area and the strong Earth science departments in Cardiff University and Swansea University are a source of knowledge and expertise that should not be lost.


There is an opportunity to further develop geotourism and the importance of geodiversity and natural landscapes as a key component of UK tourism. The geology of the UK is notable for its diversity and features rocks that span most of geological time, underpinning a spectacular variety of landscapes. Geotourism is growing in the UK, and depends on government-administered protection programmes for geological sites, local programmes to protect and promote geoheritage as well as efforts to improve visitor access. Sites may be protected for a number of reasons; they may exhibit rare, significant or well-preserved geology or it may be because they are areas of outstanding natural beauty. The most prominent example of established geotourism is the network of UNESCO Global Geoparks. This is an international initiative to highlight and protect landscapes of international geological significance with the aim of combining conservation with sustainable development while involving local communities.

There are 7 UNESCO Global Geoparks in the UK, with at least one present in each of the devolved nations. In addition to the geoparks there is a variety of other protected or designated areas that include conservation of geoheritage combined with educational and tourism initiatives. These include the UK’s National Nature Reserves, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), Local Geological/geodiversity sites and geological and natural history museums, as well as very high-profile sites such as the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. These sites form an important part of the myriad attractions that bring visitors to the UK. However, more could be made of the geoheritage and landscapes of the UK as tourist attractions.

Consistently effective protection programmes and marketing would give the landscapes and geological heritage of the UK a more prominent place in the suite of natural attractions that draw visitors, both from the UK and abroad. The designation and protection of SSSIs is now under significant threat due to extensive cuts to the very modest funding previously provided for geoconservation through the statutory bodies across the nations of the UK, to the detriment of tourism and the leisure industry, as well as the training opportunities such sites afford.