UCL Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy


Professor Jeremy Watson speaks at Conservative party conference

12 October 2020

Delegates at the UK Conservative Party conference have heard recommendations for the government’s Spending Review to include support for innovation that will help to achieve the aims of net zero emissions and resilient infrastructure.

Professor Jeremy Watson

Professor Jeremy Watson CBE FREng FIET, Professor of Engineering Systems in UCL STEaPP, spoke at the fringe event on 6 October emphasising a number of key priorities for the coming Spending Review to support green economic recovery, create jobs and support innovation and green industries. The panel event, Building a Better Future: The Role of Engineering in Society and the Spending Review, also included Gillian Keegan MP, Amanda Solloway MP, Yewande Akinola MBE, Professor Jim Hall and Dr Hilary Leevers.

During the session, Professor Watson expanded on a series of recommendations made in the National Engineering Policy Centre’s paper, Engineering a resilient and sustainable future. Engineering is critically important to solving some of the biggest challenges faced by society and the economy, from developing the technology that can help fight climate change to improving our transport infrastructure. The coming spending review is also one of the most important in a generation, set against a background of national recession, the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing threat of climate change.

Professor Watson explained that to achieve a recovery that combines economic renewal and meeting social challenges, such as increasing employment opportunities and reaching net zero emissions by 2050, there must be investment in engineering skills and long-term support for the engineering profession. The government should also look to encourage investment in R&D in the UK with additional incentives for businesses investing in innovation, to keep their operations in the UK.

Professor Watson also described the opportunities for the UK from low-carbon technologies, providing there is ongoing investment in their innovation and that they are developed in collaboration with a resilient infrastructure system.

The National Engineering Policy Centre, of which Professor Watson was the founding chair, is led by the Royal Academy of Engineering and brings together 43 professional engineering bodies representing 450,000 engineers to provide policymakers with a single route to advice from across the engineering profession.

A recording of the panel discussion can be watched on YouTube.