Government launches new industry support strategy

Posted on 10 Sep 2008 by The Manufacturer

The Government has unveiled a new strategy – called ‘New Challenges, New Opportunities’ – to support the UK manufacturing sector in taking advantage of changing sector trends.

The strategy, developed by the Department for Business and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills in partnership with industry, will deliver almost £150 million of medium-term investment for UK manufacturing, as well as setting out the Government’s vision for the future.

It includes:

Seizing the opportunities of the low carbon economy

A low carbon industrial strategy launched next year is to address the challenges facing manufacturers as they try to reduce their carbon footprint as well as the significant opportunities made available by investment in energy and a shift to a low carbon economy. The Office of Nuclear Development will work with industry partners to develop the nuclear supply chain and maximise high value-added work captured by UK manufacturers from an estimated £20 billion capital expenditure in nuclear. Meanwhile, a new Office for Renewable Energy Deployment will be established to address barriers to renewables deployment including helping to develop the UK supply chain. Nuclear and renewables alone have the potential to create up to 260,000 jobs over the next 10 years.

Supporting skills

A new focus on skills will see 1,500 new manufacturing apprenticeships, in addition to the 9,000 places announced earlier this year, which will increase the total number of manufacturing apprenticeships by over 10 per cent.

Realising overseas opportunities

UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) will allocate additional resources to target a package of new support for 600 UK companies of all sizes to identify manufacturing value chain opportunities in India and China. And the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK-IPO) will advise on using and protecting IP in these markets.

Improving technology networks

In addition to the existing centre in Yorkshire and the centre currently being built in Glasgow, there will be a new Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry. It will have industrial scale pre-production and demonstration facilities, which could lead to £130 million of investment in business-led applied research and its exploitation over the next 10 years. And the Technology Strategy Board will invest £24 million into research central to high value-added manufacturing.

Changing the image of manufacturing

A new body – called ‘Manufacturing Insight’ – will be tasked with improving the public perception of manufacturing to ensure young people are aware of the exciting career opportunities available to them in the sector. There will also be a ‘Manufacturing the Future’ schools campaign to promote manufacturing career prospects to young people.

Making the most of ‘intangibles’

The Design Council and Regional Development Agencies will implement the findings of the current review of the Designing Demand programme to increase penetration of the programme, helping to ensure the UK design sector has the skills required by manufacturers to compete in global markets.

“Manufacturing is central to the success of the UK economy and it is vital the sector has the right foundations to endure the current economic slowdown and emerge stronger and fitter than ever,” said Business Secretary John Hutton.

“We need to recognise that the global landscape is changing se we can help UK manufacturers stay ahead of the game. I want the UK to be at the forefront of opportunities opened up by the move towards a low carbon economy… [and] we must attract more talented young people – the lifeblood of future success – into the industry and ensure that this talent is nurtured and developed,” he continued.

The new strategy has been broadly welcomed across the sector, with organisations such as Semta, the Food and Drink Federation, Society of British Aerospace Companies and Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA) all speaking in favour of the announcement.

Reservations have also been expressed, however: “My initial reaction to this important document is that it is a positive; ambitious and committed to manufacturing. However… the one major disappointment is that the role of trade associations does not seem to have been recognised and MTA believe that this is key in delivering this sort of strategy,” said MTA external affairs manager Simon McVicker.