20 October 2016
We were very proud to be the sole sponsor of the first Cumbria Nuclear Conference, hosted by MP John Stevenson in Carlisle, on Thursday 22 September. Craig Hatch, WYG's Head of Asset Management who leads the strategy for growth within Britain's Energy Coast in Cumbria, explains why the event was a clear success and a milestone for that region for at least three reasons.
Firstly, it made a significant impact. The sold-out attendance and the sheer scope of businesses and key influencers represented among the 250 delegates gave the event the credibility and punch it intended to pack. The pre-conference dinner at the Halston on 21st September also gathered 300 guests amongst the most influential leaders and decision makers in the industry. Topping the bill were speeches by Lord Hutton, and Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Greg Clark. Lord Hutton is a former politician who has proven his allegiance to Cumbria as MP for Barrow and Furness for 18 years and to the nuclear industry as Chairman of the Nuclear Industry Association. His message was that of buoyant optimism, speaking of an “amazing moment of prosperity for our county.” Greg Clark drew on this positive perspective to underline Cumbria’s confidence as an enabler of the nuclear industry and the government’s support to achieve its aspirations.
Secondly, it brought Cumbria together. The location of the conference in Carlisle, away from traditional nuclear venues on the west coast, indicated its intention to scrutinise the impact and potential that the nuclear sector has on the whole county. In this respect, the presentations and debates were unanimously calling for unity across the county in order to send a consistent message that Cumbria is working together. Speakers like Paul Howarth, Managing Director of the National Nuclear Laboratory, and Professor John Fyfe, specialist on economic development issues, built a strong case for Cumbria as a centre for nuclear excellence that needs to show a unified front to address skills, workforce, and the wider interests of the county.
Finally, it opened Cumbria’s potential to the world. A concurrent theme was the global renaissance of the nuclear industry, and everyone agreed that Cumbria plays a central role in this rebirth. Clive Anderson, Head of Major Projects at WYG, while presenting on how the company entered the nuclear supply chain, stressed the need to continue to grow, and indeed export, the skills that we have developed in Cumbria, which are recognised and valued all over the world.
In the closing discussion featuring Jamie Reed MP, The Times columnist Matt Ridley, Professor John Fyfe, and former Minister of State for Energy Charles Hendry, the panellists concurred with the day’s speakers about Cumbria’s potential and prospects. Jamie Reed, an undisputed expert on the understanding of the economic impact of the nuclear industry in Cumbria, asserted that Cumbria would be the fastest growing corner of the UK.
Indeed, several speakers reminded the audience that there is clearly a lot at stake, with potentially billions of pounds of investment expected to pour into the region, which we must capitalise on. The thriving nuclear sector made diversification another recurrent theme. Discussions on that subject were not without echoing the debates that have taken place around delivering the Northern Powerhouse, and the need for a strategic plan that brings together infrastructure, transport, connectivity, education, energy, and other key sectors. What the conference demonstrated, more than ever, is that Cumbria has the potential to be the engine room of the Northern Powerhouse, and that it must export its capability in order to grow and help the economy of the country grow.
We are very grateful to MP John Stevenson for giving WYG, alongside our subsidiary North Associates, the opportunity to support the event as the sole sponsor and tie our Cumbrian operations so tightly with such exciting prospects for the future. We look forward to working with other Cumbrian businesses to build a strong workforce, a reliable supply chain and help the county’s ambitions come to life.
This article was first published in In Cumbria magazine.