Partnerships key, says debate

Posted on 21 May 2010 by The Manufacturer

Collaboration is critical to developing a strong future for UK manufacturing, according to a debate involving senior manufacturing experts held at Cranfield University

Knowledge transfer and collaboration was placed as a top priority for a UK manufacturing renaissance, was the message from a panel of speakers at the National Manufacturing Debate, organised by Cranfield University in mid-May.

The debate, which included expert speakers from organisations including Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems, the Technology Strategy Board, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council , European Factories of the Future Research Association and manufacturers association EEF, brought together delegates from a range of manufacturing organisations, from small businesses to large international organisations, research bodies and universities, to discuss manufacturing for the recovery.

Breakout sessions during the afternoon provided delegates with the opportunity to discuss a range of themes including low carbon and sustainable manufacturing, design and innovation, advanced materials and technology, and product-service systems – as well as the economic recovery agenda.

Feedback from these sessions gave rise to a lively debate. Delegates were able to pose a number of questions to a panel of senior manufacturing experts, chaired by editorial director of Works Management Ken Hurst.

Panellists included Robin Cheyne, East Programme Manager, The Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS); Jerry Hardcastle, Vice President Vehicle Design and Development, Nissan Technical Centre Europe (NTCE); Stefan March, Director, SMMT Industry Forum; Mike South, Managing Director, Factura; Professor Stewart Williams at Cranfield University, as well as speakers Professor Ric Parker, Director of Research and Technology at Rolls-Royce and Greg Bolan, Head of Capability Development, Performance Excellence at BAE Systems.

The message that businesses need to innovate and work together in order to survive and benefit from the economic recovery was evident throughout the debate. Indeed, Martin Temple highlighted that cutting prices will not necessarily be the answer, and that increasing innovation and moving into more niche markets were key to maintaining a competitive edge over the next five years.

As Derek Gillespie, Portfolio Manager, Manufacturing and Design, Materials, Mechanical and Medical Engineering Programme at EPSRC said: “Working together is key. We need to focus on our current strengths and the supporting research that will underpin the emergent technologies of the future.”

Manufacturing organisations are increasingly recognising the benefits of collaborating with universities such as Cranfield to develop their ideas at reduced risk, and cost, to the organisation. Universities can provide ready-made environments for testing and researching ideas to ensure they are viable technologies for deployment in the marketplace.

Businesses are able to gain an insight into current research that will lead future developments in manufacturing. Universities benefit from stronger links with industry to enhance the provision of teaching for developing the engineers and leaders of tomorrow’s businesses.

In addition to developing relationships between business and universities, it was also noted that the links between smaller organisations and large multinationals are also ever more important. Larger organisations can use the focused skills and technology of smaller organisations, which benefit from the expertise and contacts of the larger business to improve their offering.

Professor Rajkumar Roy, Head of Cranfield’s Manufacturing Department, concluded by reinforcing the message that the UK manufacturing industry has the potential to make a significant contribution to the economic recovery, through identifying new opportunities and new sectors and working together to capitalise on the country’s strengths.

As Professor Ric Parker, Director of Research and Technology at Rolls-Royce, said: “The UK is still the sixth largest manufacturing nation in the world. Manufacturing contributes around £300bn to the UK economy. Manufacturing and process technology innovation is the engine that will pull us into economic growth”.

Picture – (l-r) Rob Cheyne, Greg Dolan, Jerry Hardcastle, Ric Parker, Stefan March, Mike South and Professor Stewart Williams.

Cranfield University will be releasing a white paper following this event outlining some of the main themes, discussions and ideas coming out of the debate. If you would be interested in receiving a copy, please contact Fiona Siebrits on the contact details below.?
Tel: +44 (0) 1234 758040