Letter from the editor

Posted on 1 Mar 2014 by The Manufacturer

Jane Gray introduces TM’s March issue.

To read the March issue in full online see the digital edition.

Jane Gray, Editor, The Manufacturer magazine

It’s no surprise to see that trade body EEF’s pre-Budget messages to government have raised energy costs and security of supply head and shoulders above other challenges facing industrial competitiveness in the UK.

Industry has been warning government for far too long that energy policy which forces Britain to step leagues ahead of other nations in taxing carbon emissions will only have a detrimental effect on the UK’s attractiveness as a place to invest. Meanwhile, it fails to create any overall benefit for the global environment.

But it has become abundantly clear that while government rhetoric may commit to supporting business, and more recently manufacturing in particular, when it comes to environmental and energy policy, it is entirely ruled by thoughts of the ballot box.

Thus, while government puts pressure on the big energy companies to find ways of freezing or reducing consumer energy bills, it does little to push for innovation in commercial energy pricing and prioritises domestic over industrial supply.

Last month I heard that a key heavy industrial manufacturer in the Sheffield region had been told point blank by its supplier that they should expect around 30 energy blackouts over the winter while limited energy supply is directed to local homes, rather than into its business. It wasn’t told when these blackouts could be expected – just expected to deal with it.

Such an attitude is irrational and its impact on manufacturing investment in the UK could be devastating – not only in terms of companies failing or upping sticks to cheaper locations, but also through the loss of potential foreign direct investment.

Of course, engineers and manufacturers themselves have the opportunity to be part of the solution to our energy conundrum – which no one pretends it will be easy to solve.

It was great to see sector skills council Semta invest 24 year old Sam Etherington as the first contemporary engineer to join its Hall of Fame at its first Skills Awards.

The young innovator is responsible for creating a multi-axis wave energy converter which has been hailed as a revolutionary renewable energy source.

With energy so key to the future of manufacturing, not just in the UK but around the globe, it is important that the sector applauds the contribution of peers working to find solutions to security and supply challenges – it will be interesting to see which engineers top the list of candidates for the second Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, for which nominations opened this month.

It’s good to observe the growth of large scale, high profile manufacturing awards schemes. While we are reaching a stage where there is an argument for consolidation in some quarters, there can never be too much recognition and celebration of British industrial achievement and contributions to society.

Signalling a big step up in ambition, TM is this month marking the opening of its own annual awards scheme with an official launch event for the first time.

The VIP event in the House of Commons on March 3 marks the start of the 2014 campaign to identify The Manufacturer of the Year and follows from a record breaking attendance of over 800 people at the 2013 awards ceremony.

See coverage of our awards launch online soon.