At yesterday’s opening of Innovate 2011 in London, an expo organised by the Technology Strategy Board quango, Vince Cable, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and president of the Board of Trade, gave a keynote speech.
"This event provides a clear demonstration of the talent and the creativity we have in this country," he said.
He praised pharmaceutical companies and offshore engineering manufacturers but cherry-picked a bicycle maker:
"My favourite example is Brompton Bikes in Brentford – a world-beating bicycle maker which stays ahead of its low-cost competitors through creative innovation."
Great stuff for Brompton but prior to this praise Cable said Brompton was part of "what might be seen as humdrum industries."
Later in his speech Cable announced more cash handouts for the car industry.
He said: "The UK car industry can, and should be, at the forefront of innovation, which is why – in the New Year – we’re making an additional investment of up to £15 million in projects to accelerate the commercialisation of low-carbon vehicles."
This is on top of the £400m set aside for the plug-in car grant, a cash subsidy for those rich, multi-car owning motorists wishing to purchase electric cars, which cost £25,000+. Take-up of the scheme has been much lower than expected. According to the RAC Foundation, just 215 ultra low emissions cars were purchased under the e-car sweetener between April and June, a fall on the 465 bought during the first three months of the year. E-cars are the same size as standard cars so can’t possibly reduce congestion.
According to an academic at the London School of Economics, the UK bike industry is worth nearly £3bn a year.
Cable served as Chief Economist for the oil company Shell from 1995 to 1997. He was elected MP for Twickenham in the 1997 general election.
One of the seminars at Innovate 2011 was about ‘Future Cities’: "As cities grow larger, they will also become more vulnerable to climate change, infrastructure failure and health problems, and experience higher levels of congestion and crime."
Bicycles are ultra low CO2; don’t damage roads (unlike, say, longer lorries, allowed by the DfT yesterday); widespread use of them leads to a fitter, healthier population; and reduce congestion. But despite being a proven technology, according to the Coalition Government’s motormouth business secretary, bikes are "humdrum". Greenest Government ever? Hardly.