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Bringing a brighter outlook for Britain

As long ago as 1854 the Board of Trade created the foundations for an organisation – which was later to become the Met Office – spanning the vital links between weather and trade. 163 years on, the bonds between weather forecasting, climate, and economic development are just as relevant today as we work with the Government on the development of its Industrial Strategy.

This ambitious strategy is described by the Business Secretary Greg Clark as a critical part of the plan for Britain after it leaves the EU. Currently a White Paper, the Industrial Strategy aims to bring together a range of policies and initiatives across Government departments to improve living standards, increase productivity and drive growth.

The Industrial Strategy is being developed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), our lead department within Government, and currently it spans ten pillars including investing in science, developing skills, upgrading infrastructure, delivering affordable energy and clean growth, and encouraging trade and inward investment.

“The UK is home to some of the world’s best science and technology institutes and researchers – including the Met Office. Our Modern Industrial Strategy aims to build on these strengths and deliver growth and prosperity across the country. Organisations like the Met Office will have a vital role to play in helping deliver the Strategy both at home and as an ambassador for Great British science abroad.”

Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Rob Varley, Met Office’s Chief Executive says: “When you scan the ten pillars, it’s clear that the Met Office will be able to play an important role in contributing to this strategy in many areas to give the UK a brighter long-term outlook. The Met Office itself is transforming to meet the needs of future challenges, and we will be incorporating the priorities of the strategy into this to build on our strengths, and to work with others to deliver even greater value for the UK.”

The strategy themes highlight several areas of vital importance for the Met Office including science, research, innovation, skills and infrastructure. Rob adds: “The strategy recognises the crucial role of science for productivity, growth and resilience: features that have been part of our history and will be a vital part of our future.”

Met Office science and related services support all parts of the UK and a wide range of sectors across the economy – informing decisions, operations and policy development. The Met Office can help industry become more resilient, competitive, productive and sustainable.

Rob continues: “From scientific research and our first-hand operational experience, we know it is essential that infrastructure is planned, built and operated with resilience in mind. Weather and climate science are core to these considerations. For example new energy-generation infrastructure needs to be sited in the most favourable locations and be designed to withstand future extremes; major transport networks need to be operated safely in times of extreme weather; and it’s vital that digital and telecommunications leaders are updated about the potential risks from space weather.”

Indeed, with so many critical sectors relying on our services, the Met Office’s own assets such as the observation network, the high-performance computer, and our modelling and science capabilities represent nationally-important infrastructure in their own right.

The strategy also emphasises the importance of recognising and building on clusters of expertise throughout the UK. We work across all the regions including Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. For instance, the Met Office Marine Centre of Excellence in Aberdeen provides a range of marine weather forecasts, warnings and observations which support the marine industry from offshore oil and gas, renewable energy, to shipping and ports.

Similarly, the South West, where the Met Office has its head office, is home to an internationally-important cluster of excellence for environmental science, including the world’s greatest concentration of UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) contributing authors.

Professor Stephen Belcher, the Met Office’s Chief Scientist, highlights the importance of partnerships in building expertise: “Scientific research is best when it’s done in collaboration and the Met Office values working with partners, including our partnerships around the UK such as the Met Office Academic Partnership with the universities of Exeter, Leeds and Reading.” The Met Office’s new supercomputer – the largest dedicated to weather and climate in the world – helps build on this strength and extend this excellence into the future.

Rob Varley adds: “This is an ambitious Industrial Strategy with an approach that looks across Government departments, across the economy and across every part of the UK. The Met Office plays a key part in supporting businesses to make good decisions and so create a stronger outlook.”