Leaders welcome Sunak’s Digital and Net Zero shuffle

Katie Gallagher, Manchester Digital

Regional business leaders have reacted positively to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s departmental changes.

Sunak has moved Digital policy into a new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology to be led by Michelle Donelan, and moved energy into a new Department for Energy, Security and Net Zero under Grant Shapps. Sunak’s rival for the Tory leadership Kemi Badenoch replaces Shapps as the new Business Secretary, as reported on TheBusinessDesk.com.

Katie Gallagher, managing director of Manchester Digital and chair of the UK Tech Cluster Group, said:  “It is welcome news that the government has reaffirmed its commitment to supporting the tech sector at this critical juncture. Research in 2021 found that the digital sector employs around 1.66 million people: accounting for 4.9% of all jobs. It also contributed £148 billion to the economy – amounting to 7.6% of the UK total.’’

Gallagher heard the official news of the new department while she was in a meeting with skills minister Paul Scully, who had been expected in Manchester in person for this week’s Digital Skills Festival. However, he conducted the meeting virtually from his office in Whitehall as the changes were being announced.

“As managing director of Manchester Digital, and in working with industry and Government on the Digital Skills Council, I see the critical importance of keeping momentum and ensuring businesses can start, grow, and innovate through technology, while more people are supported to build digital careers,” she said.

“Ministers across government – including the Secretary of State and Chancellor in their recent Bloomberg speeches – have been clear as to the importance of digital tech to growing the economy.  We look forward to continuing to work with them to help deliver on this agenda by building on success and unlocking potential in all parts of the UK.’’

Sunak’s creation of Shapps’ new department has been welcomed by Sir Roger Marsh, chair of the NP11 group of northern LEPs, who  said: “We welcome the establishment of the new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero and commend its ambition, but the first thing on the agenda for Grant Shapps should be committing wholeheartedly to green growth in the North.

“As the NP11’s Net Zero North prospectus shows, a Northern Green Industrial Revolution has the potential to create 100,000 new green jobs by 2050, adding more than £2bn a year to the energy economy in the region and all while reducing carbon emissions by 50% by 2032 against 2005 levels

“The newly formed department needs to be swift and decisive in its pursuit of green growth. It should mark the start of a more collaborative, strategic approach which maximises impact and delivers massive return on investment in the North.

“The new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero should work with us to take co-ordinated, systematic action to deliver on this potential, which will require collaboration across boundaries and between sectors to achieve.”

Steve Scrimshaw, vice-president at Siemens Energy UK and Ireland, said: “Energy policy demands clarity, so we welcome the creation of the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. This comes at a crucial moment for UK energy policy, every household in the UK is impacted. We need affordable bills, increased energy security and to deliver on our net-zero targets. This is the growth opportunity of the 21st century and the UK is competing for green jobs and investment. It’s vital we don’t get left behind and miss the regional and global economic opportunities that decarbonisation can deliver. The most important issue is how to implement this programme faster, it is our hope that this new department works in lockstep with industry to develop energy transition policies that give us the long-term clarity to move into a decade of green delivery.”


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