Embracing Industrial Strategy: Pioneering High-Value Manufacturing in Food and Drink

It’s clear to me that any successful industrial strategy for the UK and Scotland must place the natural economy at its core. 

With a UK General Election expected this year, industrial policy – the concept of direct government intervention to boost particular sectors of the economy – is moving into the spotlight. Labour promises a mission-focused Industrial Strategy if elected, while Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf used a New Year speech to declare that “industrial policy is back”, ahead of the launch a new ‘Green Industrial Strategy’ this spring.

It’s clear to me that any successful industrial strategy for the UK and Scotland must place the natural economy at its core. As of 2019, the UK's natural economy boasted a staggering £29.1 billion in value, underpinning over 300,000 jobs. This sector spans various industries, from agriculture and forestry to fishing and food manufacturing. It's more than a significant slice of our national income – it’s a hotbed of opportunities for growth and innovation. I’m proud to say that SRUC’s mission is to remain at the forefront of harnessing this potential.

Consider our involvement in the Dairy Nexus project. Funded by the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal and South of Scotland Enterprise, Dairy Nexus is not just a multi-million pound capital project – it’s a symbol of progress, a proof of what can be achieved when we pour innovation and investment into traditional industries like dairy. Poised for development at our Barony campus in Dumfriesshire, this advanced facility is set to transform the region’s dairy industry. By weaving together the latest in animal health, waste management, and product development, SRUC is helping to reimagine producers’ economic and sustainability potential.

Projects such as Dairy Nexus, Digital Dairy Chain and RAVIC in Inverness fit perfectly into our wider vision for a robust rural economy with growing natural capital the length and breadth of Scotland. They're concrete reminders that when government can partner with academia, businesses and communities to unlock joint investment, widespread benefits can be unleashed, like slashing carbon emissions, boosting productivity, and opening up new markets.

If this is tantamount to industrial strategy in action – with outcomes that are tangible, impactful, and aligned with the needs of our times – we need more of it.

Yet industry and investment are nothing without the people who drive them forward. As SRUC forges ahead this year towards achieving degree-awarding powers, we remain laser-focused on nurturing a new generation of professionals – individuals who will not only excel in their fields but will be the architects of a truly innovative, sustainable, and inclusive rural economy.

The opening of our new School of Veterinary Medicine in Aberdeen this year, together with the recognition of SRUC’s vet services through with the prestigious Queen's Anniversary Prize in February, combine to show that we’re on the right track in terms of ambition to unlock new opportunities for people and businesses in rural industries.

My hope is that if policymakers deem industrial policy to be the way forward for our economy, they fully embrace the natural economy's vast potential in doing so. We must ensure that sectors like food and drink not only survive, but innovate and evolve at pace and remain vital pillars of our economic and environmental success. The road ahead has its challenges, but the prospect of a sustainable, productive vibrant, and prosperous future for our rural communities and beyond is an ambition that’s well worth pursuing.

Wayne Powell is Principal and Chief Executive of SRUC

Posted by Wayne Powell on 30/01/2024

Tags: Rural Policy Centre, Partnership, Economy, Business Management
Categories: Sustainability | Natural Economy