Scotland's Economy Blog

Chemicals sector has the right formula to grow our economy

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Chairman of Chemical Sciences Scotland Dr Sandy Dobbie

Growing our economy and exporting more goods to the rest of the world is the key to Scotland’s future prosperity. Leading the charge is our whisky industry, which has already helped meet a 2017 target to increase exports six years earlier than planned.

And that’s why Scotland’s dynamic chemicals sector has just unveiled its ambitious strategy for growth to Enterprise Minister Fergus Ewing. We want to increase exports by 50 per cent to £4.5bn by 2020. In fact, the chemicals sector is already our second biggest export sector, behind only whisky.

By its very nature the chemicals industry is global in outlook, explaining why the 200 companies based here already generate £3bn exports. Our refreshed strategy now builds on that success.
Firstly, we want to grow exports even faster by encouraging firms already here to expand and by attracting new players to Scotland by nurturing cross-sector collaborations with life sciences, energy, and food and drink.

Secondly, Scotland has ambitions to establish a low carbon economy. The chemical sciences offer many of the solutions to such challenges – for example, high-performance polymers that produce lighter, more fuel-efficient cars and new insulation materials that reduce carbon emissions from our homes.

Today’s chemical industry is largely dependent on oil and gas feedstock but over the next 20 years, it will be transformed by the use of renewable feedstock and Scotland is well placed to be in the vanguard of this opportunity, making this sector even more critical to our economy.

We are also announcing a new £1m investment by synthetic fuels producer Sasol Technology UK at its research and development facility in St Andrews. Sasol is using the principles of nanotechnology to develop a new generation of catalysts to make energy production more efficient.

Sasol’s investment is a major fillip for the Scottish economy. Growing exports by 50 per cent over the next eight years is ambitious, but many more investments like Sasol’s will make it come true.

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