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A National Industrial Strategy supported by Industrial Symbiosis – by Peter Laybourn

7th September 2016

Developing an industrial strategy is one of Theresa May’s key economic reforms.  The Government has recognised the need for an industrial strategy to foster competitive advantage on a national scale by focusing on long-term productivity growth, and encouraging innovation. Industrial symbiosis has proven to deliver positive impacts on these agendas at a national and local scale.

The importance of an industrial strategy

Jesse Norman, MP, Minister for Industry and Energy within BEIS, tweeted “industrial strategy is not just about companies; it’s also about making markets work better”. Industrial symbiosis addresses both the market failure of information together with mitigating the externalities e.g. carbon still doesn’t have the ‘right’ price, as repeatedly raised at international forums including the OECD and the annual Global Green Growth Forum (3GF).

Following from Theresa May’s announcement of the new department Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Green Alliance highlighted the importance of an industrial strategy in their recent blog post, “Five things you should know about industrial strategy,” observing that a national industrial strategy that supports lean, green manufacturing and construction would be good for productivity, competitiveness and sustainability. Green Alliance point out that an industrial strategy could catalyse growth in the green economy if delivered right – I can add no further to the OECD observation that “industrial symbiosis is systemic innovation vital for future green growth.”

Further, they observe that a strategy that doesn’t respond to the changing business environment will fail.  Changes to the business environment include price volatility, material security, regulatory changes particularly associated with the environment which is again where industrial symbiosis is targeted to increase resilience through substitute materials, new supply chains, moving by-products/wastes up the value chain.

Industrial symbiosis is particularly adept at connecting industry (diverse sectors and expertise from manufacturing and services – all sectors, all sizes) to create opportunity (new products, reduced costs, additional sales).  Through identifying novel sources of materials and energy for industry, and markets for their by-products, industrial symbiosis can supply substantial economic and environmental benefits to the economy.

Our RED IBIS approach

Although often discussed at a national or even global level ( G7 Alliance for Resource Efficiency for example) these points are also addressed through bespoke local and regional industrial strategies, through International Synergies’ RED IBIS approach (Regional Economic Development through Intelligence Based Industrial Symbiosis).

RED IBIS develops a picture of an area’s resource strengths and material supply risks/opportunities. By valuing existing assets (companies, technologies, resources, skills, etc), the activities and investments that would sustainably develop the local economy are identified: existing businesses are supported through improved resource and energy-efficiency and new investment is attracted with the opportunities presented by underutilised resources – eminently suitable to this country’s former industrial heartlands.  Both Birmingham City Council and Basildon Borough Council have employed this approach to address drivers including improved productivity and competitiveness of businesses, low carbon green growth, regeneration of industrial areas.

Countries including China, France and Turkey have included our RED IBIS approach in regional economic development – Turkey has also incorporated it as a key part of their Intended Nationally Determined Contribution to reduce C02 under the COP21 Paris Agreement.  Is it time for the UK to take the next step in leading the world in industrial symbiosis, and become the first country to have an industrial symbiosis strategy underpinning its national industrial strategy?

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