CEO Update for 1st May 2020

Dear members & friends of SUT – what an extraordinary period the last few weeks have been for all of us. All over the world, the outbreak of a virus that can only be fought by our own immune systems, with no cure, vaccine or specialist therapies yet available has powerfully reminded humankind that nature does not recognise political borders, and that to fight such a challenge requires joined-up international cooperation. We’ve seen free-market governments make policy decisions that only a few months ago would have been regarded as unthinkable in order to protect populations and jobs, and we’ve moved wholesale to the adoption of home working and teleconferencing with surprising smoothness and effectiveness. 

SUT has been part of this journey, with our Branches, committees and special interest groups moving to online meetings using Teams, Webex, Zoom, Starleaf, Skype and other platforms. In the UK, the government’s staff retention payments scheme is being applied, so that Cheryl, Emily, Jacqui and Lisa are on furlough, with Jane & I keeping the head office functions, website & activities running until something like normal business resumes. Perth Branch have reduced staff hours for Jennifer & her team, & in the USA Patsy and Araceli are keeping things running smoothly. 

I’d like to thank all of our members for their support and patience while the global situation progresses – I’m delighted to see that even now, in the midst of closures and lay-offs, we are still seeing new people join. 

Alongside COVID-19 the world has also seen record low oil prices, as demand for hydrocarbons has fallen to very low levels thanks to the slow-down of economic activity, lack of air travel, & heating demands falling as we move into Northern Hemisphere spring. Technology moves on, and it’s been striking that in the sunny weather experienced in the UK in recent weeks we’ve regularly seen photovoltaic solar energy provide almost 30% of baseload electricity production, wind energy at a similar level, no coal burn at all, and gas & nuclear making up the balance. Energy-producing companies, recognising the economic, environmental & statutory drivers towards a low-carbon future, are taking energy transition very seriously and I expect by the end of this decade in addition to the now well-established offshore wind industry, we’ll see floating solar and offshore hydrogen production playing a significant part in the energy mix, as well as advances in how we store intermittent energy for release to the grid at peak times. 

A return to ‘business as usual’ may not be what we see after COVID-19, essential national infrastructure could well be seen not as new motorways, runways and railway lines, but as multi-gigabyte internet speeds and the ability to source goods & services locally – even distributed micro-generation & energy storage from a range of sources.

For some of our members this is a tremendous opportunity for innovation and growth, for others it’s a threat and they’ll be worried about how they survive turbulent times. As your Learned Society, SUT is here to help you get through this period in good shape by sharing knowledge, networking in new ways, staying in touch with new developments and exploring the ocean together as a source of wealth, creativity & resources for the future. 

Please keep in touch by following our social media feeds such as @SUT_news on Twitter, the various Branch feeds, our website & LinkedIn messages. Every week I’m releasing a new episode of our Underwater Technology Podcast at https://sut.buzzsprout.com/ & every two weeks there’s a Zoom online seminar early Monday afternoon – see https://www.sut.org/news/ or the events pages to keep track of what’s happening, or email me directly at steve.hall@sut.org

Stay safe, stay well.