The chief executives of German giant Siemens and manufacturers’ organisation EEF shared their optimistic views of British manufacturing this morning during a radio interview with BBC.
Terry Scuoler, CEO of the EEF, said that the main challenge to UK manufacturers is weak global demand, but that there has been year on year 12% growth in exports to emerging markets. He added that lending schemes are yet to pump cash into SMEs’ coffers – initiatives like the FLS are supporting more mortgage landing, but not actual funding to smaller enterprises.
Roland Aurich, CEO of the European division of Siemens, shares Mr Scuoler’s optimism. British manufacturing is “catching up.” He said: “Britain is now a good place to do business. Companies are making sure that sub-suppliers and tier two suppliers to large companies like Siemens are really providing high quality products. The country is going in the right direction.”
When the radio presenter mentioned Lord Heseltine’s No Stone Unturned report and its 89 ideas (one of which was introducing a Growth Council at national level while giving regions control of funding), Mr Scuoler commented: “I support the devolution to localities and putting funding and authority into the hands of Local Enterprise Partnerships. But caution is needed., as many of those LEPs are not up and running yet, they vary enormously in quality.”
When asked whether he agrees with Siemens CEO Peter Loscher’s idea of a new normal, a situation where we are in a post-growth, aging part of the world that makes things that people don’t want to buy, Mr Aurich said: “It is a new normal, but it’s also important to have a strong presence in markets. Siemens has been focused on bigger trends, such as the development of urbanisation and bigger cities and on climate change issues. If you choose this kind of strategy, and build your business on it, you will have stability going forward.”
He admitted, however, that a long term policy framework is needed, not only for manufacturing to succeed, but also to ensure investment in Britain.
Referring to the Budget, Mr Scuoler added: “Every single pound that the Chancellor can bring to the growth agenda is absolutely critical. The easiest way to get money in the economy is perhaps through infrastructure.”
But the nuclear programme seems to be on thin ice, the presenter objected.
“The issue here is about cohesion and consistency of approach, an overarching industrial strategy that goes through parliament for full delivery. This is about long term planning and long term strategy,” Mr Scuoler concluded.