Productivity through cross-sectoral innovation

Posted on 14 May 2016 by The Manufacturer

Dick Elsy, CEO, High Value Manufacturing Catapult and TM Top 100 judge, explains how cross-sectoral innovation could be key to boosting productivity.

The latest ONS figures on productivity do not make good reading. Labour productivity between Q3 and Q4 of 2015 fell by 1.2%.

Dick Elsy, CEO, High Value Manufacturing Catapult (HVMC).
Dick Elsy, CEO, High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult.

Following the 2008 crisis, output per hour worked in the UK has failed to recover and is 18% below the average for the other six members of the G7 group. Bridging this gap is critical to our ability to compete in the high tech global markets of the future.

The manufacturing “mantra” of continuous improvement remains valid but, in a fiercely competitive global market, it’s clear that it is not, on its own, enough to gradually improve our productivity. We need step change improvements. This requires the development and adoption of innovative technology solutions.

The centres in the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult work with manufacturing companies of all sizes to accelerate the journey of new manufacturing technologies to commercial reality.

Our recent economic impact figures show that the approach works – every £1 of government core investment in our Catapult has already embedded £15 of manufacturing value-add in the UK economy.

It’s no coincidence that much of our work is done with innovation hungry sectors that are already very productive, such as, aerospace and defence – which increased productivity by 30% over the past five years, and the British automotive industry – which is the most productive in Europe.

Dick Elsy sits on the judging panel for TM Top 100.

The Manufacturer Top 100 project, now in its third year, is an annual published list of 100 inspiring figures in manufacturing.

It aims to raise the profile of industry, dispel the myths surrounding it, create a platform to publicly identify dynamic individuals in the sector, and show to the world that manufacturing is a vibrant, exciting, creative and well-paid industry to be involved in.

If you know someone who is achieving great feats in industry, nominate them in 200 words or less before May 31.

To submit a nomination, or to find out more information, click here.  

It’s key that lessons learnt from innovation in these successful sectors is used for the benefit of UK manufacturing and the wider economy.

I see tremendous opportunity for facilitating and encouraging innovations that are tried and tested in one sector, and translating them to applications in other sectors.

Additive manufacturing technology, of which aerospace is an early adopter, now finds seemingly limitless opportunities in the medical technologies sector, including surgical instruments and orthopaedic implants.

The automotive industry has started to exploit the potential of advanced composite materials, which to date were mainly used in aerospace applications. Advanced composite materials combine great strength and stiffness with low weight.

The HVM Catapult is leading the charge to reduce cost and improve production rates of these materials to support the UK automotive market for high volume affordable composites which is predicted to grow from a current value of £300m to more than £3bn in 2030.

The UK has an opportunity to build on existing capabilities and grab its share of the total global market, which could be worth £80bn. Lessons learned to reduce costs in automotive can then be ploughed back into aerospace.

These are just a couple of examples of technology innovation adapting from one sector to another, creating new market opportunities.

Next on our list is to help the construction sector to build quicker, smarter and cheaper through the adoption of advanced manufacturing techniques learned in other sectors.

This cross-sectoral innovation will be a key part of our journey to moving up the productivity league tables.