In the first part of last week, I was rather far away from Sherborne on a trade mission to India.
At the end of the week, I was rather close to Sherborne in Oborne.
What, you may ask, does Oborne have in common with Mumbai?
At first glance, I have to admit that the contrast is quite considerable – in just about every way. But there is, in fact, a striking connection not only between the two places but also between the things I was doing in each of them.
In India I was, amongst other things, talking to the people who run one of the largest automotive businesses in the world. As well as producing a very large number of tractors, lorries and cars of a traditional sort, they have now moved into producing electric vehicles. This is typical of India – which has now become a place which leads the world in many new technologies. It has an astonishing proliferation of engineers as well as businessmen of very far reaching vision. They can see very clearly that the future of the automotive industry is almost certainly electric so they have entered the market right at the start.
They are now engineering a vastly improved electric vehicle – and I hope that we may see them establish the manufacturing of this vehicle for the European market in the UK. Part of the purpose of my visit to Mumbai was to press the case for this to happen.
But, of course, if we are to succeed in bringing this leading edge manufacturing to Britain and in expanding the manufacture of electric vehicles that has already begun in Britain, we will need increasingly to provide charging points. And this is where Oborne comes in.
A little while ago, I found myself in Lyme Regis celebrating the installation of a charging point there. And on Friday, I was in Oborne doing exactly the same thing.
Naturally, these are little acorns – but great oaks will grow out of them as charging points spread – at first slowly and gradually; and then reaching a tipping point as more and more electric cars arrive on the scene.
Grasping the future is exactly what Britain needs to do if we are to compete successful in the global race – and as these two episodes illustrate, that means a combination of huge investment in the technology of the future and punctilious attention to the many small steps required to provide the infrastructure that will help Britain to be the location of choice for those investments so that we can capitalise on a transformation which has already begun and which recently saw this country become a net exporter of cars.