Industry-University collaboration only way to reach net zero Wales

Industry net zero carbon emissions

We’ve got to reduce the level of emissions in industry and get to net zero carbon emissions for the environment. But we need a regional economy and an industrial base to support the economy. This is critical in industrial regions such as south Wales.

When transitioning to these new solutions for industry with low carbon technologies, we don’t want to end up just pushing the problem around. We need to respond in a responsible way and in the right way.

Innovating so our Welsh manufacturing plants remain open means we refrain from shipping industry’s carbon heavy problem to other countries such as China. Closing UK manufacturing relying on other countries doesn’t solve the problem of emissions and it’s not globally responsible.

A net zero Wales

There’s a knock-on effect to the community and the supply chains if we were to lose our industry in south Wales. You lose the jobs for people working in the industry. People, not just industries, will move from the region.

The decisions about where to buy products can impact the wealth of a region. For example, if you must buy steel internationally it costs more.

If you’re looking at how we develop solutions for building more homes for example, it’s about looking at affordable solutions for communities. You need to look at how the region can benefit from the supply chain.

Affordability and supply are critical for a net zero Wales that’s fairer for everyone.

Buying Welsh products and solutions because the expertise and supply is here, as opposed to importing, is hugely beneficial to the regional economy. Not relying on other countries for making the steel we need for housing, transport and packaging carries a substantial financial upside.

Retaining the people and skills base we have in manufacturing, as well as the historic cultural significance of industry in the region are essential societal benefits critical in a net zero Wales.

A region adaptive to change

Foresight, innovation and global awareness are key if we are to be adaptive to change. Creating that attitude and environment in south Wales, how we respond to change, how we predict and respond to economic and societal changes, is critical as we deliver net zero solutions.

There are wider societal challenges in Wales that go hand in hand with the climate challenge, and critically we need innovation and flexibility to meet those too.

As we find solutions, we need to put those solutions back into society, to ensure that society benefits from changes. This includes education, skills, knowledge, jobs, these are all challenges that we need to address as we move towards a net zero Wales that makes society fairer, and not harder, for everyone in the region.

Universities play a critical role in providing research knowledge and essential skills that help industry train and retain their workforce, this is essential as we deliver net zero solutions in which people play an integral part.

The role of universities in establishing a net zero Wales

Addressing net zero is a problem across different industries. It’s not something one industry can solve on its own. If you leave industry to solve it on its own it can’t solve the problem, not the whole problem. As they find their own solutions, industries shift the problem onto someone else, another industry.

You need to bring industries together.

This is where universities come in. Bringing in multi-disciplinary experts ensures we can accelerate solutions and change. Bringing industries together pools knowledge and expertise to find solutions. Bringing industry and academia to work closely provides solutions that benefit everyone.

Collaborative partnerships between universities and academia have the power to deliver real lasting change for a net zero Wales and a net zero world.

Published July 2022

Contributed by Debbie Baldrey, Director of the Steel & Metals Institute

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