After lurching from one short term strategy to the next, a new two-year project run by Foresight, part of the Government Office for Science, will call on industry and academic expertise to look at the long-term picture for the manufacturing sector.
It will investigate global trends and drivers of change in order to explore how the UK can maximise opportunities and provide an evidence base to help policy-makers navigate a challenging and uncertain future.
It is being led by the Foresight team in the Government Office for Science under the direction of the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Sir John Beddington and is sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The findings will inform Government policy throughout the duration of the project and beyond.
The project will have a High Level Stakeholder Group to advice on its strategic direction and impact. The group will include senior individuals within the public and private sectors and will be chaired by Vince Cable.
Speaking at the Financial Times Future of UK Manufacturing Conference, Vince Cable said: “Manufacturing has a key role to play in economic growth, in particular driving exports and productivity. But as industries and technologies evolve, we need to make sure we’re staying ahead of the game.”
Speaking about his hopes for the project, Mr Cable said that: “It will make a powerful contribution to our work supporting British industry and to making sure that we retain our position as a world-class manufacturing nation at the cutting edge of new products and processes.”
Professor Sir John Beddington commented that it was essential to develop better understanding of technology and globalisation in order to map future progress and innovation. Sir Beddington said that “this work will help the UK position itself [in order] to maximise opportunities in manufacturing, mitigate risks and deal effectively with future uncertainties.”
The project will also benefit from a Lead Expert Group of leading academic and private sector experts from a range of disciplines. Working alongside the Foresight team they will help guide the project and secure a robust evidence base that can be used by policymakers to inform future decisions. Members of will be announced early in 2012.
Terry Scuoler, Chief Executive of the manufacturers’ organisation EEF, said: “This is welcome recognition of the growing importance of manufacturing to a new and rebalanced economy.”
“In tandem with these medium to long term aims, we also need to lay the foundations by getting the short term right which means sweeping away the immediate barriers to growth which are holding companies back from investing now,” Mr Scuoler added.
The organisation is demanding that measures are bought in to reduce the cost of finance in order to stimulate growth within manufacturing.