“A day to remember in a year to forget”. This is how Health Secretary Matt Hancock described the news this week that Britain has become the first country in the world to fully test and approve for use a Covid-19 vaccine. It is difficult to underplay how significant this is. Not only does it represent tremendous scientific achievement, but it finally gives us a clear path out of this crisis; when the population is vaccinated, things can begin returning to normal, the economy can recover, and we can see friends and loved ones without restrictions.
This new vaccine has been thoroughly tested like all others before it. The speed of approval is thanks to lots of funding, rapid reviews by regulators during the trial process, and thousands of ordinary people who volunteered for the clinical trials; helping them to run much quicker than usual. I know many of the anonymous volunteers were from the West of England region, with trials taking place in our hospitals. To everyone involved in the trials, we are all so grateful.
I look forward to my turn to get the vaccine, and I have been pleased to hear that the local NHS has been collaborating with our armed forces to set up mass-vaccination centres such as at Ashton Gate stadium. This is a huge logistical task, and really highlights the importance of collaboration and working together. As a Combined Authority, we stand ready to help however we can.
For me, the success of the efforts to find a Covid-19 vaccine really underlines the importance of investing in innovation. Innovative new technologies will help our civilisation solve many problems we face today and in the future. This is why I am proud that as a region we are a centre of innovation, and I will continue to support this.
The Combined Authority has invested in a wide range of innovation programmes from the National Composites Centre, to the Institute for Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems and the Digital Engineering Technology and Innovation (DETI) programme.
This investment is helping our region become a global centre for the next generation of aircraft and vehicles which thanks to new materials and propulsion technologies will have significantly reduced carbon emissions. Innovation in the West of England will not only have a globally-positive impact on our planet, but it will support good and stable jobs for our residents for decades to come.
As the Coronavirus vaccine shows, innovation and progress in science and technology is overwhelmingly positive news for everybody in our society. I am looking forward to seeing the vaccine rolled out over the next few months, and our society and economy recovering. I am excited for what the future will bring in terms of innovation coming out of this region and benefitting the world.