Confidence at CBI conference

Posted on 25 Oct 2010 by The Manufacturer

David Cameron puts substance behind his promise to invest for growth at the CBI's annual conference.

Highlighting the seriousness with which all political parties are viewing the rejuvenation of British industry the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) annual conference has today been attended by Prime Minister David Cameron, deputy prime minister, business secretary Vince Cable and Labour leader Ed Miliband.

In his speech to delegate the Prime Minister revealed the coalition vision for British industrial strength and made some key announcements to give substance to the strategy. Foremost among these were the commitment of £200m to the establishment of a network of Technology and Innovation Centres to drive research, confidence and growth in key areas of competitive strength. Cameron also announced the dedication of £60m to the development of port infrastructure to support the off-shore wind industry.

The aim of the innovation centres is to bring greater coherency and commercial drive to Britain’s world class research base. Industry representative have repeatedly identified an ability to transfer research into competitive production as a major obstacle to UK growth and this investment hopes to counter that weakness by closing the gap between universities and the global market. Vince Cable commented: “We need to do more to ensure the UK benefits from its world-class research. These centres will help take ideas from the drawing board to the market place. They will play a key role in helping firms develop new products and processes so they can grow and prosper.

“High-tech industries are the future of the British economy. Growing sectors that exploit these new and emerging technologies will help re-balance the economy and provide the highly skilled, well-paid jobs we need.”
The promised investment of £200m will be allocated over the next four years and will follow a deployment model proposed by James Dyson and Hermann Hauser who both submitted advisory publication to government on the development of the UK innovation infrastructure in March this year.

The new centres will allow businesses to access equipment and expertise that would otherwise be out of reach as well as conducting their own in-house R&D. They will also help businesses access new funding streams and point them towards the potential of emerging technologies.

Each centre will focus on a specific technology where there is a potentially large global market and a significant UK capability. Areas identified as possibilities by Hermann Hauser included plastic electronics, regenerative medicine and high value manufacturing.
The network will be established and overseen by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) but individual centres will have a high degree of autonomy so they can respond to business needs. The TSB will work with industry, universities and other interested parties to identify the areas the centres will support. The TSB will determine which existing centres to invest in by April next year and will then consider requirements for new centres.

Cameron’s commitment to the support of innovation for competitive advantage is consistent with his promise last week to protect funding for STEM subjects during a period of heavy cuts for Higher Education. Responding to the Prime Minister’s speech Richard Lambert, director-general of the CBI said: “The Prime Minister demonstrated a real passion for business and an understanding that only business will create growth.

“There was a welcome emphasis on the need to re-boot the country’s infrastructure, with a coherent vision of what needs to be done over the next five years to secure economic growth.

“It was encouraging that he encompassed all parts of the economy, from broadband to ports and from transport to energy. He also made clear that access to finance and immigration would not be barriers to future growth.”