The Ornamental Horticulture Round Table group responded to the Government's industrial strategy paper, with HTA horticulture head Raoul Curtis-Machin saying: "We're really excited about the potential for a sector deal for the industry - the election is going to put a temporary stop to conversations but we look forward to making progress in the summer and autumn again."
He says: "To cultivate world-leading sectors is one of the government’s top 10 industrial strategy pillars, and as world-leading cultivators, we believe that the garden and landscape industry sector can negotiate a Sector Deal. This could help us strengthen and develop the businesses, skills and investment incentives which we need to thrive in post-Brexit Britain."
In early April, the Ornamental Horticulture Round Table Group met with the Defra team leader Nick Turner and secretary of state Andrea Leadsom to discuss its response to the government’s consultation.
Curtis-Machin said there was "a lack of firm black and white responses to our questions. We wanted a firm steer about our approach to the response, and instead we got general encouragement about asking for a sector deal."
In the 132-page Building our Industrial Strategy green paper, the Government is looking to work with sectors large and small, mature and emerging, to ‘transform and upgrade’ their sector. As part of the new strategy, industry sectors are set the challenge of organising themselves behind strong leadership, and coming up with a plan to improve and grow, under the interlinking 10 pillars underpinning the national strategy.
The sector deals are about long-term collaborations between business, organisations like trade and professional bodies, R&D providers, Government and other stakeholders.
Curtis-Machin says this sounds "very much like the activity which we began three years ago with the Ornamental Horticulture Roundtable. The action plan we produced in 2015 was the product of nine months of intense cross-sector discussions, identifying barriers and opportunities, diagnosing issues and how we could collaborate to address them.
The ‘10 pillars’ underpinning the national industrial strategy are: investing in science, research and innovation; developing skills; upgrading infrastructure; supporting businesses to start and grow; improving procurement; encouraging trade and inward investment; delivering affordable energy and clean growth; cultivating world-leading sectors; driving growth across the whole country; creating the right institutions to bring together sectors and places.
Curtis-Machin says all industry lobbying work "is aimed to grow the market for plants, garden centres and landscapers. As part of our collaborative efforts, we have produced a sector innovation strategy to develop new products and services. We have a levy board which is focussed on near-market R&D but our sector currently does not have a dedicated strategic R&D body. This represents a barrier to our growth, and is therefore something we want out of a potential Sector Deal."
He says the science of horticulture is not recognised as a STEM (Science,Technology, Engineering and Maths) subject, which have a strong presence in the school curriculum: "Not having this recognition for horticulture represents a barrier to ensuring our future skills pipeline, and this is another key topic we are lobbying for."