Today our Plexal Stratford workspace on the Here East Campus has been the host location for Treasury Connect: Green Industries and we’re thrilled the event has been held here for the second time.
Many of you will recall the previous event back in 2021 when then-Chancellor Rishi Sunak took to our Centre Stage – and not for the last time. Returning to Plexal as Prime Minister just last month, he delivered his first speech of 2023. The New Year address called for a more innovative economy as Rishi said: “The change is to put innovation at the heart of everything we do – an ethos embodied by so many of the fantastic businesses right here at Plexal.”
Plexal is the innovation company committed to solving society’s challenges through collaboration with government, startups and industry, and having such a strong private-public sector presence here today reinforces that mission.
The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt, Chancellor of the Exchequer, underlined our focus as he took to the stage for the latest edition of Treasury Connect, which was designed with the green industry in mind and how important innovation is for the sector to thrive.
Opening with a walk down memory lane that highlighted his fondness for the area and Plexal’s history, the Chancellor said: “I was here ten years ago when I was Culture Secretary responsible for the Olympics and this was the Media Centre. And it’s a source of incredible pride this has taken off in a way I don’t think anyone could have imagined: as a hub of tech innovation.”
Reinforced by Therese Coffey, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, with four ministers from the Treasury, the Chancellor said: “For the UK, our green industries are absolutely strategic.”
Hunt pointed to significant milestones including:
- The UK has confirmed its spot as the major country that’s done the most to reduce emissions since the 1990 benchmark
- Our economy has nearly doubled and emissions have nearly halved which is a very strong record we can be proud of
- We’re the first major country to legislate for net zero – over 90% of our economy is now covered by net zero targets
- Last year, around 40% of electricity came from renewables
- 28th December was our greenest day ever and 30th December saw 60% of our electricity come from wind
- After China, we’re the second largest producer of wind energy in the world and only behind Germany in the proportion of energy that comes from renewables
The Chancellor went on to highlight that all of this was important for him as part of a bigger strategy. Challenging himself on paying for the NHS, defending democracy and keeping taxes low for the next 30 years, the solution boiled down to an area we at Plexal are very familiar with: innovation.
“I would say the answer is we have incredible strengths in innovation industries and if we play our cards cleverly, we can turn the UK into the world’s next Silicon Valley,” the Chancellor detailed. “Green industries is very important in that. But I can also point to our technology industry where last year we became only the third country in the world to have a billion-dollar tech sector, more unicorns than France and Germany combined.”
Other key sectors he highlighted include:
- The UK’s manufacturing industry, which is responsible for producing half of the world’s aircraft wings and a quarter of the world’s small satellites
- The UK’s creative industries which are growing at twice the rate of the economy as a whole
- The UK’s life science industries where every single one of the world’s 25 leading life sciences companies has an office here, full of people responsible for one of the world’s two biggest vaccines and world’s biggest treatment for Covid
He noted how our “incredible strengths” are “ingredients” that can “turn us into being a science and innovation superpower and the world’s next Silicon Valley”.
Explaining his optimism, the Chancellor added: “Behind the incredible innovation you see in this building and the companies you exemplify, we also have the strength of the City of London and our financial sector, worth about 12% of our GDP. And we have three of the world’s top ten universities and a higher education sector which is globally ranked second.
“So put those things together – the financing, the academic research and the entrepreneurs, and you’ve got an incredible opportunity for us as a country.”
Kate Pearman, COO at Plexal, who opened up today’s conference, said:
“For an event discussing how to drive growth across green industries, Plexal is a very fitting home as an innovation company with environmental sustainability embedded from inception.
“Over the past six years since our launch, we’ve worked in the areas of carbon capture, smart buildings, electrification and connected mobility. We’ve also been involved in complex net zero innovation challenges with startups, industry and government.
“Hosting Treasury Connect is a key moment of Plexal’s ongoing journey and I’m incredibly proud we’ve been able to support the event’s ongoing evolution.”
Andrew Roughan, CEO of Plexal, added:
“We were delighted to host the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of State for Energy Security & Net Zero, and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, at Plexal today, for what was a productive discussion on how to drive growth in our green industries and across the UK’s innovation economy.
“Forums like the Treasury Connect series are fundamental to cross-sector collaboration and an effective way to help close the gap between government, industry and startups. We’re proud Plexal has repeatedly been chosen by government to host and facilitate a forum that focuses on high-calibre discussions and brings together all the key stakeholders.
“Further to the message delivered by the Prime Minister at the start of the year, and the recent departmental reshuffle, this type of event and the more regular cadence of government directly engaging with industry is a strong signal that this Cabinet is serious about delivering on the innovation agenda. We’re pleased to see the vision outlined by the Prime Minister turning into practical steps, and direct action being taken to tap into the expertise of the UK’s technology and innovation sector.”