EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, yesterday held the second National Manufacturing Conference at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in Westminster.
The event, held in association with The Manufacturer, included a distinguished lineup of business leaders, politicians and media commentators interested in promoting UK manufacturing.
They came to discuss the current economic outlook, challenge established political orthodoxies and identify potential business opportunities for UK manufacturing. Key note speakers and panelists included the Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls and chief executive of Siemens UK and North West Europe Roland Aurich.
Retiring head of asset management at Goldman Sachs, Jim O’Neill, credited with inventing the term BRIC, spoke about moving the focus of our growth efforts away from Europe. “We shouldn’t be so focused on Europe when China creates another Greece every 12 weeks and another India every two years.” Mr O’Neill remained confident that world growth would be about 4% for this decade, driven by strong growth in emerging economies.
Lord Heseltine stole the show with his persuasive argument for the devolution of funding and authority away from central government to Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs). He argued that the LEPs are the right way to promote growth even though they have been criticised for being too weak and underfunded.
One of the four specialised breakout workshops focused on sustainability within the manufacturing industry. The Making your Green Investments Pay workshop, highlighted the growing challenge of rising energy costs, the importance of maximising resource efficiency and green strategic approaches.
The event’s host, Gareth Stace of the climate and environmental policy at EEF said: “there is a massive prize available through using technology for growth, however the lack of finance is hampering visions and aspirations within manufacturing.”
Ian Tyrer head of sustainable energy finance for Lombard reiterated that, “currently energy is accounting for up to 20-30% of operating costs for businesses and the number is still rising.’ He also expressed the three key sustainability issues consisting of legislation, corporate social responsibility and the rising costs of energy and fuel prices that are affecting manufacturing companies.
Reporting by Jodie Wells