Events Roundup: January 2021 | IPT

We began 2021 with another bumper month for IPT events, with ten being featured in total. We were able to cover subjects ranging from pension superfunds to green initiatives within aerospace and construction, as well as touching upon the recent developments within digital healthcare.

We were fortunate to welcome some high-profile chairs and speakers such as, Paul Anstey, Chief Executive Officer of Government and Agencies in UK and Ireland for Sodexo and former MP Margot James speaking on behalf of Warwick Manufacturing Group. As well as strong parliamentary chairs such as the Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, Chair, Select Committee on Environmental Audit and Catherine McKinnell MP, Chair of the Petitions Select Committee.

Work Post-COVID: The Importance of Digital Skills

On Monday 11 January, we hosted a virtual event between parliamentarians, industry representatives and academics entitled ‘Work Post-COVID: The Importance of Digital Skills.’ The discussion was chaired by Seema Malhotra MP, Shadow Minister for Employment and welcomed guest speakers John Lawson, Chief Information Officer, BAE Systems and Margot James, Executive Chair of Warwick Manufacturing Group. The discussion focused on the issue of skills gaps in the workforce and how COVID-19 has highlighted the demand for digital upskilling.  

Main points raised:

  • COVID-19 has accelerated the growth of many businesses’ digital skills as well as testing current digital capabilities. The importance of developing digital skills in the workplace has been highlighted during this unprecedented time.
  • Digital divide is a key problem highlighted by the closure of schools during the coronavirus pandemic. Many families have limited or no access to devices to learn and work from home.
  • The digitally excluded can very quickly become the economically excluded. With nearly 12m UK citizens registered as lacking the digital skills required for everyday modern life, there is greater need for the implementation of a core set of skills for the UK workforce.
  • SME’s have limited access to digital training programmes and facilitators making them vulnerable to competitors. How can they be supported to digitise their processes?

Forward-Thinking Building: Net Zero Construction

On Tuesday 12 January 2021, we hosted a virtual event chaired by Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, Chair, Select Committee on Environmental Audit. He was joined by Kim Yates, Project Principal, EUNA Sustainability & Climate Change Lead, Mott MacDonald and Steve Radley, Strategy and Policy Director, Construction Industry Training Board. The discussion focused how the UK develop a green building sector that cuts emissions and passes on savings to homeowners.

Main points raised:

  • Training provision has been resilient during the pandemic in construction, however the number of apprentices in construction is down this year. 350,000 new jobs need to be filled by 2030 to meet the green recovery challenge of getting existing builds to the correct standards.
  • The construction industry needs to prioritise the retrofitting of existing assets in order to meet carbon-cutting targets. New builds are becoming increasingly green and low carbon, and the existing housing stock will become responsible for around 95% of building emissions.
  • A key challenge is that the standards, qualifications, and training is skewed towards developing new buildings. The technology and qualified workforce needed to retrofit houses have not been scaled up to the levels needed to complete large scale green retrofitting of homes.

Protecting Savers: Pension Superfunds

On Wednesday 13 January, we hosted a virtual event between parliamentarians and industry representatives entitled ‘Protecting Savers: Pension Superfunds.’ The discussion was chaired by Kevin Hollinrake MP, PPS to Michael Gove as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and welcomed guest speakers Joe Dabrowski, Deputy Director - Policy, Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association and Rob Yuille, Assistant Director, Head of Long-Term Savings Policy Association of British Insurers. The discussion focused on the role of superfunds for struggling pension schemes and filling a gap in the market.

Main points raised:

  • The existing pensions network still gives employers limited options about how to manage their funds towards an end game.
  • The pensions market has seen record levels of transactions in recent years despite twin challenges of the financial crash and current pandemic.
  • What will long-term regulation of superfunds look like? How can we ensure that superfunds use their influence for good, ethical, and sustainable purposes?
  • The Government has said that it intends to bring forward to review to expand automatic enrolment; how will this affect savers and their pensions?

How Can Business Navigate Brexit?

On Thursday 14 January, we hosted a virtual event chaired by Stephen Hammond MP, member of Business in Post-Covid (Pandemic) World All Party Parliamentary Group. He was joined by Natalie Kingswood, Business Improvement Manager in Technical Services from BOC UK and Dr Adam Marshall, Director General at British Chamber of Commerce. The discussion focused on how businesses might mitigate disruptions in early 2021 and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on business planning and resourcing for Brexit preparations.

Main Points Raised:

  • The deal was passed with very little time for consideration and has left businesses little time to adjust. Businesses need a stable trading environment to operate efficiently.
  • Rules surrounding origin are still unclear for many businesses and smaller organisations do not always have the capacity to understand these rules.
  • Changes have come into force whilst business travel is very low due to COVID. Businesses will need to understand new regulations and be ready for this once travel is possible again.

Attracting Investment into the UK Post-Brexit

On Monday 18 January, we hosted a virtual event between parliamentarians and industry representatives entitled ‘Attracting Investment into the UK Post-Brexit.’ The discussion was chaired by Martin Vickers MP, Select Committee on International Trade and welcomed guest speakers Adam Fico, Head of Government Relations, Raytheon UK and Matthew Grigor, Public Affairs Manager, Associated British Ports. The discussion focused on exploring potential ways of ensuring the UK remains competitive on the global stage and continues to attract investment.

Main points raised:

  • Stability and clarity of the regulatory and the taxation environment is key for investors and businesses navigating exports and investment.
  • CO26 is an opportunity to show the developments the UK is making; however, this is still a short-term timeline and we need to be looking to the UK’s future decisions on a much longer timescale.
  • What further guidance is needed for businesses regarding required documentation to trade internationally?

Hydrogen: Fuelling the Future?

On Tuesday 19 January 2021, we hosted a virtual event chaired by Jacob Young MP, Chair, Hydrogen All Party Parliamentary Group. He was joined by Dr Angela Needle, Director of Strategy, Cadent Professor Harry Hoster, Director of Energy Lancaster, Lancaster University. The discussion focused how the UK could achieve the target of net zero by 2050 and whether hydrogen is the fuel of the future.

Main points raised:

  • Industry needs a clear commitment from government on the role of hydrogen in the UK’s future. Decarbonising industry is key to meeting the UK’s net-zero goal and greater certainty will enable the sector to scale up quicker and encourage businesses across the economy to invest in hydrogen infrastructure.
  • The importance of educating consumers on hydrogen and consideration of a nationwide campaign to educate consumers on what changes are needed to decarbonise their homes and why.
  • The need to incentivise young people to strive for a career in the green energy sector to ensure there is no labour shortage when retrofitting homes and that a substantial, qualified workforce is in place to support the transition.

UK Public Procurement Post-Brexit

On Tuesday 19 January 2021, the IPT held an afternoon virtual event on the topic of UK Public Procurement Post-Brexit. The event was chaired by Catherine McKinnell MP, Chair of the Petitions Select Committee and the guest speaker was Paul Anstey, Chief Executive Officer of Government and Agencies in UK and Ireland for Sodexo. The event focused on the expected changes to public procurement procedure as a result of the UK's withdrawal from the European Union.

The main points raised were:

  • The need to help SMEs navigate and access public procurement contracts to support small businesses.
  • How best to ensure that participating companies are spread across the regions of the United Kingdom and aren't concentrated in small areas
  • The broader social goods provided by contracts including regional investment, sustaining employment and skill building, with a focus on looking beyond low-cost price when awarding contracts.

Green Aerospace: The Future of Flight

On Monday 25 January 2021, we hosted a virtual event chaired by Carol Monaghan MP and member of Aerospace All Party Parliamentary Group. She was joined by Adam Morton, Chair of UK Sustainable Aviation and Head of Environmental Technology, Rolls-Royce and Professor Patricia Thornley, Director of EBRI, Energy and Bioproducts, Aston Research Institute and Jonathan Counsell, Group Head of Sustainability, International Airlines Group. The discussion focused on how the aviation sector can be supported to ensure it meet its environmental targets while the industry faces unprecedented damage to the industry due to COVID-19.

Main points raised:

  • The recovery of aviation post-Covid-19 needs to be green. The climate agenda has continued to gather momentum during the pandemic; growth in the aviation sector should be dependent on the sector demonstrating it’s efforts to be more sustainable and environmentally-friendly.
  • Aviation has been hit hard globally by the pandemic. A focus on green aviation policy as the driver for the sector’s recovery could provide opportunity to progress in the use of new technologies whilst enhancing innovation and creating new jobs.
  • COP26 provides a springboard to demonstrate UK leadership in green aviation. Government and Industry need to communicate to the public the importance of reducing emissions from aviation.

Clean Power: Maximising Offshore Wind

On Tuesday 26 January, we hosted a virtual event between parliamentarians and industry representatives entitled ‘Clean Power: Maximising Offshore Wind.’ The discussion was chaired by Alan Brown MP, SNP Spokesperson for Energy and Climate Change and welcomed guest speakers Richard Sandford, Head of Development, RWE Renewables and Huub den Rooijen, Director of Energy, Minerals and Infrastructure Portfolio, The Crown Estate. The discussion focused on the role of offshore wind in achieving the target of net zero by 2050.

Main points raised:

  • Meeting the UK Government’s commitment to delivering 40 GW of offshore wind by 2030 is an essential part of the roadmap to achieve net zero ambitions by 2050. As UK appetite for offshore wind increases, we will need to focus more on connecting offshore grids to ensure this triple current capacity is met
  • The value of UK offshore wind exports is expected to increase five-fold by 2050 as UK supply chains are expanding over the country whilst products and services are being exported to the rest of the world
  • There is huge opportunity for the manufacturing sector to assist the offshore wind supply chain. The industry need to share their expertise and knowledge to new developers and ensure quality expectations are explicit to suppliers
  • How can we take advantage of the UK seabed as a critical economic opportunity and ecological solution for biodiversity?

DigiHealth UK: Expanding Digital Healthcare Technologies

On Wednesday 27 January, we held a virtual event chaired by Taiwo Owatemi MP, Select Committee on Health and Social Care. She was joined by Steve Broomhall, Business Technology, Medical Devices, Johnson & Johnson, and Professor Andy Turner, Research Centre for Intelligent Healthcare, Coventry University. The discussion focused on the growing role for technology in the future of the NHS and healthcare in the United Kingdom.

Main points raised:

  • The pandemic has accelerated the health services’ adoption of digital tools including in mental health treatment.
  • AI can drive improvements in the efficiency of care, e.g. robot assisted surgery and aiding training.
  • The ongoing importance of ethics guidelines and good governance to ensure principles of fairness and non-discrimination are built into the systems.