New Strategy takes next step

Posted on 26 Aug 2010 by The Manufacturer

The Government is asking senior manufacturing advisors for their input to shape a new Manufacturing Strategy, expected in the autumn.

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills is seeking counsel from a group of senior manufacturing advisors on the shape and content of a new formal strategy of UK manufacturing.

Representatives from BIS including Marie-Anne Mackenzie, head of manufacturing materials, have contacted several key manufacturing personalities this week, including members of the now abandoned Ministerial Advisory Group (MAG), for expert opinion on the strategy’s new priorities.

The intent to launch a modified, or brand new, manufacturing strategy, was announced in A Strategy for Sustainable Growth, a BIS paper led by Secretary of State for Business Vince Cable, published in July.

“Ministers at BIS, with input from some former members of the MAG, are putting together a formal framework document for manufacturing,” said one member of the former MAG group. “This will be based on some parts of the 2008 Strategy, with others dropped, and several new elements that bear the new Government’s stamp, reflecting the ConLib coalition’s own tendencies for business support.”

The framework will almost certainly involve a restructure of business support bodies. Industry insiders feel that Business Link is vulnerable, while the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) is likely to survive following cuts expected in the Spending Review in October.

Vince Cable has expressed his strong support for MAS at recent public business events including the Farnborough Airshow. “It will be interesting to see how the new business support landscape looks, as Vince Cable tries to balance his ideal middle-ground between industrial activism and free markets with no state intervention,” said one senior manufacturing executive.

A spokesman for BIS would not be drawn on whether the new strategy is likely to incorporate most, or some, of the legacy initiatives established by the Manufacturing Strategy 2008 under the Labour government. Some programmes, like the Manufacturing Technology Centre near Coventry, and the Composite Materials Strategy, which includes an R&D centre in Bristol, are well advanced and would be difficult if not impractical to abolish.

Sheffield Forgemasters was told in July that it would not receive the £80m grant to construct a 15 kilotonne press pledged by the previous business minister, Peter Mandelson. However the Government has worked with several private sector organisations to try to raise the funding for Forgemasters indirectly.

“I’d be surprised if they rolled some back of the activities completely,” the manufacturing executive said. “I can’t see any government crossing Sir John Rose (of Rolls-Royce) on some of the advanced manufacturing projects.” The new strategy will most likely take the form of a hotchpotch of existing programmes and new ideas aligned to the coalition Government’s principles of supporting growth, and support for the regions via the Local Enterprise Partnerships.

A Manufacturing Stakeholders Meeting to crystallize the group’s views has been scheduled for September 20th in Westminster and will involve the business minister Mark Prisk.