Business Secretary, Vince Cable, today launched a new government initiative, Made by Britain, in Westminster.
The initiative, inspired by the Great Exhibition of 1851, is designed to show British, design, innovation and manufacturing expertise.
Answering calls for better government engagement on both a national and regional level for manufacturing, this initiative sets all of the UKs 650 MPs the task of selecting a manufacturing representative from the their constituency to from part of what Mr Cable described as a “virtual Crystal Palace.”
At an event today around 200 supporters of manufacturing and the Made by Britain initiative gathered at Portcullis house to hear Mr Cable officially launch the scheme and to network with the 40 manufacturers nominated by MPs so far.
Attendees at this event included manufacturing big hitters like Tata and United Biscuits, but also financial institutions such as RBS and Price Waterhouse Coopers who were keen Chairman of the 1851 Commission and of the ERA foundation, shared data which showed just how feasible this rebalancing could be if manufacturing gains the proper support. It also showed the impossibility of bridging the current deficit through simply growing services and knowledge based industries.
Sir Alan pointed to research from Cambridge University which states that: “If we increased our manufacturing exports by 10% while simultaneously reducing our imports by 10%” we could balance the deficit. He continued to say the same research revealed that for knowledge based industries to achieve the same effect, an increase of 150% in output would be required.
Many of the MPs present today have already seized the Made by Britain challenge with both hands. MP for Hexham, Guy Opperman, was keen to promote the activities of his nominee for manufacturing excellence, SCA Hygiene Products.
Clive Bell, SCAs senior mill representative, who was also in attendance, said he hoped Made by Briain would make a real difference, specifically he said he hoped better understanding of manufacturers on the part of those in Westminster, would lead to better energy policy. “We are a very energy intensive business” he said.
SCA produce toilet roll, both branded and own brand, for major UK supermarkets. Bell says that approximately one in five toilet rolls sold in the UK come from SCA.
Opperman was keen to emphasize that, although the nature of this manufacturing does not fit with headline policy for high vale, niche products, it is a commodity which is essential, supermarkets demand that it is sourced locally and it does, in fact involve some highly sophisticated machinery. Bell confirmed that the Northumberland-based mill has invested heavily in automation.
Speaking of government support for manufacturing, Mr Cable was sincere but pragmatic “I can’t go around the country with a cheque book,” he said. “I’d love to be Father Christmas but we can’t operate like that.”
Instead, Mr Cable reassured attendees, government can throw support behind apprenticeships, behind the new Technology Innovation Centres and channel support through the Regional Growth Fund. All of these actions however might be completed with better understanding through creating closer local MP-manufacturer relationships.
Made by Britain is in a pilot phase at the moment. The intention is for the full complement of 650 constituencies to have at least one nominated manufacturing representative for each in order to display a modern Great Exhibition in time for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee next year.