Harvard Professor Dani Rodrik’s latest blog Democratizing Innovation, speaks to government’s reticence to provide a strategic direction for technological change. He states “as a society, we should care not just about how much innovation takes place, but also about the types of new technologies that are developed. We ought to ensure we are investing in technologies that are safe, environmentally sound, empower rather than simply replace human labour, and are consistent with democratic values and human rights.”
The Financial Times Weekend Magazine issue June 13 2020 noted the 2010-19 decade to be the lowest in the UK’s history of productivity growth, this obviously predates the current pandemic and Brexit. Sir Michael Marmot’s Health Equity in England: The Marmot Review 10 Years On, demonstrates this same decade has seen a reversal of health improvement. Sir Marmot explains “if health has stopped improving it is a sign that society has stopped improving.” The Marmot report describes how inequitable spending practices reverse progress – much like the UK’s approach to spending on innovation.
To reverse this there needs to be a conscious decision to embed resilience across the UK, starting in the community where equitable access to healthy homes is the first priority and the norm.
In light of the shake up in the housing sector due to the release of the Hackitt report post Grenfell, there is a great opportunity to build in preventable health impacts through the mandatory Building Registration Certificate. “In the case of housing refurbishments, the Building Safety Manager will need to engage with residents on the proposals and updates of any changes that might affect the safety of the building. These new processes ensure the Building Safety Regulator is aware of risks being prevented and managed. Though these steps are welcome, including the new national construction products regulator and the array of regulating bodies and processes being established, is this not the moment to address the toxicity of building materials and its embedded carbon, to truly conceive a universal healthy home standard in the UK? Mainstream an informed choice of materials and methods that reduce the introduction of toxins into the resident’s home surely must be included among the priorities of a Building Safety Regulator? How can this be linked to the Foundation industries supply of materials to the UK’s manufacturing and construction sectors?