Helping the UK to flourish
10 December 2011
This year marks the beginning of an important relationship between the Met Office and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). That's because on 18 July 2011, the Prime Minister announced that responsibility for the Met Office would pass to BIS.
Almost everything that BIS does - from investing in skills to boosting innovation - helps drive UK growth. With world-leading science and innovation at the very heart of the Met Office, the move is a fantastic opportunity to create a centre of excellence for science that will support BIS' long-term goals. "The Met Office is a real jewel in the British crown of science and our job is to help it move forward to greater things," says Martin Donnelly, BIS's Permanent Secretary.
The Met Office is now a Trading Fund within BIS, which means it operates on a commercial basis and meets agreed targets. Even though this means the Met Office is working in a challenging environment, with less money to go round, Martin is highly confident about its future. "The Met Office generates nearly one in five of every pound it spends from commercial sources. It is in a great position to go on flourishing and help BIS with our wider mission, to support UK growth and jobs," says Martin.
The Met Office will continue providing vital world-leading weather and climate services to the public, businesses, government and the Armed Forces. As Martin says, BIS will be there to support its work, and help to find other ways to develop the Met Office, to help it remain a successful Trading Fund in the future.
Increasing knowledge sharing
The move signifies Government's intention to establish a Public Data Corporation (PDC), plans for which were announced in January this year. "These are early days for a PDC, but it is another great way to build on the expertise of the Met Office and find synergies that help Britain and our economy," says Martin.
Decisions on membership, structure and the commercial strategy of the PDC have yet to be finalised. The Government is carried out a public consultation on PDC data policy which completed in October - with further discussions taking place before the end of the year.
"Now that the Met Office is part of the BIS family, we can design models that take full account of the particular needs and opportunities that the Met Office offers," says Martin.
A future full of promise
The new relationship between the Met Office and BIS is already in full swing. Vince Cable, Secretary of State for BIS, and David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science have already visited the Met Office in Exeter - and Martin is planning to visit soon.
Martin sees the Met Office as a shining model for what BIS is trying to do across many other sectors. "I am very optimistic about the future of the Met Office. It symbolises the development of a knowledge-based economy into real business opportunities," he says. "People have confidence in the Met Office - and that is a great asset to the wider British economy."
Met Office and BIS, working hand in hand
The Met Office protects lives and livelihoods in the UK - and internationally - with weather and climate information. It also helps boost private sector growth by supporting businesses that rely on Met Office information and advice, from building and aviation, to mining and finance. Here are some recent highlights that link the Met Office and BIS together:
The Thames Estuary
The Met Office has been doing detailed work in the Thames Estuary on flood risks, looking forward over the next 90 years. The research will ensure that the right investments are made to avoid flooding or other serious water hazards in the future.
The tail-end of the recent Hurricane Katia battered the UK, bringing gale force winds, flooding and transport chaos. The Met Office's ability to predict and track hurricanes meant that people were protected - here and abroad - through our work supporting the US Hurricane Center. Additionally, our forecasts were vitally important to businesses that needed to assess the risk of financial loss.
The next science generation
The Met Office is keen to encourage the next generation of scientists and is taking steps to bring children and science closer together. One popular initiative is our interactive weather presenting kit that enables children to be more hands-on with science.