Key stakeholders in the UK flooding sector came together yesterday at the launch event for the UK Flood Partnership. The body aims to become a trusted public-private collaboration for UK flood risk solutions and advisory services while also bridging the gap between an industry described by many at the event as "fragmented and piecemeal".
The event welcomed a range of industry players from environmental consultants to civil engineers and data management specialists to flood defence manufacturers. All were there for a common purpose - to work out a way they can unite the sector under one banner in which to flaunt their "world-leading" skills overseas.
The key aims of the UKFP by 2020 are:
- To be an organisation trusted by government, industry, clients and suppliers
- Get >40% of industry actors actively engaged
- Get members to achieve a >10% measurable increase in exports
- Create a self-sustaining knowledge platform
Additionally the UKFP want to facilitate industry commitment to £1bn investment in flood resilience per annum by 2025.
A key motivation for the launch is the need to compete with the Dutch in improving the UK’s flood skills "narrative", according to the ex-chief executive of the Environment Agency David Rooke, who has been named chair of the UKFP. He made it clear the UK is second-to-none in terms of skills and solutions but where it struggles is communicating and selling itself to the world.
Rooke reminisced on his time on EA, when he was sent to an international flooding conference in Beijing fifteen years ago. While the Dutch exhibition stand stood out as having support from the government, agencies and the private sector the UK industry was represented by separate stands. "The time for this launch could not be better," Rooke said. "And it could prove essential to get this right in post-Brexit Britain."
During a speech explaining the affiliation between UKFP and the UK Water Partnership, the director of UKWP Mark Lane pointed out this could well be the last chance for a coherent and unified flood industry: "If you fluff this - there will not be another chance," he said in an attempt to rally a sector which has long-been siphoned into separate disciplines.
"The commercial market for the export of flood resilience services is incredible - worth billions of pounds, said Lane. "Everyone has been paddling their own boat but now is the time to come together and compete with the Dutch on an international level."
The director of Rivelin Bridge and non-executive director of UKFP, Steven Trewhella said: "While the Dutch have a very strong narrative a lot of their solutions are localised and nuanced. The UK has a much stronger sector but needs to improve in five key areas - ideation, connectivity, leadership, technology and partnerships - all of which will be addressed by the UKFP.
The director of strategy and investment at the Environment Agency Alison Baptiste pointed out the key differences between the Dutch model of managing flood risk and the UK model. "The Dutch are actually very good at preventing flood events while the UK has much more practice at responding to flood events. The Rijkswaterstaat want to know what to do when an event does happen."
The event was also used to announce the launch of a collaboration between Flood Briefing and the UKFP. Companies which sign up the UKFP before the end of October will be given free six months access to Flood Briefing as an incentive for joining.