ICI Exhibition Booklet - Flipbook - Page 5
The pros and cons of foreign ownership were discussed and Paul Drechsler pointed out UK businesses benefit hugely
from investing in foreign countries.
An analysis of the chemical industry’s critical strategic materials was proposed, and Sharon Todd agreed with the need
to identify and protect them, adding that we needed to secure the supply chain as well.
One delegate then brought the audience’s attention to a recent article in the Financial Times that had drawn parallels
with Galileo’s struggles in ‘the populist retreat from reason’, asking how populist objections and the rhetoric of both the
media and government could be overcome. Ian Shott and Ian Noble were both enthusiastic about the industry’s need
to be forthright, tell its own story, and tell it well.
‘Do we need to go back to school on STEM?’ was the next question put forward, with the speaker commenting that it
was no longer taught in a way that made it seem exciting and positive and enquiring if SCI would be interested in playing
a role. Sharon Todd highlighted the work already being done by organisations such as the RSC and Catalyst, agreeing
there was a great deal of potential to get involved collaborativsely while noting the need for investment.
A delegate then enquired if the proposed Industrial Strategy might involve the government prioritising some sectors
over others. Paul Drechsler said that he was confident the government was taking its responsibility seriously and talking
across all sectors rather than cherry picking. He made clear that the government was viewing the problem through a
regional lens, which he believed was the best way forward, but also acknowledged that businesses and industry needed
to push the government to maintain its focus.
That discussion was followed by a question about whether large companies do enough to share ‘unwanted’ inventions
with smaller companies that might be better placed to develop them. Both Ian Shott and Ian Noble said that, in their
fields, such sharing did happen and observed that there were partnership models in use to encourage it further.
Ian Noble had spoken strongly about the need to retain and recruit the best talent from around Europe and the world in
his speech and the panel were asked towards the end of the debate about how we could avoid a ‘brain drain’ and also
how the chemical industry could remain tariff-free after leaving the EU. Paul Drechsler again assured the audience that
the government had clearly indicated it recognises the value of talented researchers and workers from the EU, as well as
tariff-free access for the chemical industry, although he acknowledged that this might not stop them from trading those
things away in negotiations.
Finally, one delegate pointed out that the other 27 countries in the EU had made clear that the UK would not be allowed
to ‘cherry pick’ aspects of membership and asked what would give, as the UK seemed to want to do so. The answer to
that, of course, is what the exit negotiations are for.
After 90 minutes of stimulating debate, the guests and speakers were able to continue considering the issues with drinks
and canapes while viewing an exhibition exploring ICI’s history of innovation, including early examples of Perspex and
old footage of operations.