Chairman’s Comment: UK Critical Imports and Supply Chains Strategy

We read with interest the Governments first Critical Imports and Supply Chain Strategy paper that aims to build resilience to the UK. This is an important topic and one that will be key to the future of our members. Whilst we applaud the lengths taken by Government towards resilience, there were a few omissions that we will be working hard with our Government colleagues to address.

Whilst the strategy recognises that supply chain shocks can be catastrophic, it doesn’t say how the UK will mitigate against them. By definition, these are impossible to predict but even so, by onshoring our critical and advanced materials that are key to our net-zero ambitions would seem to be a good step forward.

There will be no net-zero without composite materials, and yet these do not form part of the strategy. We already saw from the pandemic that countries immediately ring-fenced their critical materials…composites being just one. The USA introduced the Inflation Reduction Act after the pandemic to ensure their resilience and perhaps the UK should be looking at a similar move – assuming that we make the materials in the first place.

Minerals and chemicals are noted as a critical supply chain stating that the industry is worth £14bn in GVA. The composites industry is worth almost as much (£12.3bn) and critical to our future but is not mentioned as a priority.

The subject of carbon border adjustment mechanisms (CBAM) – which will surely have an impact on imports is also omitted from the strategy. We know that our members are concerned about this topic and I (along with other industry leaders) will be meeting with Greg Hands MP (Minister of State for Trade Policy) on January 23rd where these discussions will be addressed.

Finally, whilst the report is specific on imports, the UK’s export controls continue to give our members frustration that we will endeavour to resolve in 2024 and beyond. I’m looking forward to the meeting next week and feeding back the next steps.

Prof. Alan Banks, Chairman, Composites UK