Rowan Crozier, CEO of Brandauer, looks at what the Government needs to do, in order to help SMEs take advantage of new opportunities around sustainability and the transport revolution.
The Manufacturing Assembly Network (MAN) launched its post Covid-19 MANifesto, last year, detailing the support the sector needs if it is going to recover from the pandemic. Signed by MDs from the nine companies, the 10-point plan focuses on creating the business support and economic conditions required for UK manufacturing to become a global powerhouse once again.
We are sitting on a very interesting opportunity at the moment and one that could offer some economic relief to a seriously stretched UK manufacturing sector.
The global thirst for sustainability has been accelerated and leading the charge appears to be the transport revolution where we are looking at ways in which we can make travel cleaner and, ultimately, greener.
This marks a paradigm shift in the way we design and build aeroplanes and importantly how we look to fuel the cars of the future, the latter being brought into even sharper focus with the Prime Minister announcing a ban on the sale of new diesel and petrol cars by 2030.
Batteries are often the first thing people think about when you look at electrification, but there are hundreds of new parts and technologies required to make this possible and the UK has a fantastic opportunity to lead the way.
The Manufacturing Assembly Network (MAN) has already reviewed its five-year plan and how it can play its role in the ‘green’ economy. It’s not unusual for SMEs to be ahead of the curve when it comes to these changes and we are already looking at the skills and equipment we need to offer lighter, more intricate parts that still deliver the required performance.
Now these are not small decisions. They often require significant investment and, with the pandemic still strangling cashflow, you only make these decisions if you believe the opportunity is achievable and worth the spend.
This is where the Government needs to come in. It needs to take a long-term approach to positioning the UK as a global leader in electrification and this will require a multi-faceted strategy that sets about creating the environment and trading conditions for supply chains to flourish, from the OEMs down throughout the different tiers.
Battery technology specialist Britishvolt’s announcement that it hopes to invest £2.6bn in the UK’s first ‘gigaplant’ to manufacture electric batteries in Blyth is a massive shot in the arm for this strategy. It will hopefully provide the confidence for other companies to commit, but let’s not just focus on cars – there are opportunities for electrification in buses, motorcycles, bikes, boats and, of course, aeroplanes.
Developing supply chain capability means technologies can be honed and then applied to different end use applications and this is where the UK can really excel and where our outstanding academic institutions can play their role.
The likes of Warwick Manufacturing Group, Coventry University and the Catapult Centres have so much knowledge and capabilities to offer and they are now pretty good at working with business and understanding the need for speed.
Our wish here is that investment is ploughed into these collaborations and that our Government is bold and brave in its approach to ensure that money gets to the projects that will deliver a competitive global advantage.
But don’t stop there. Reinvent a world leading R&D initiative, which provides significant tax relief across sectors that are prepared to take a chance and develop new technologies that will underpin the transport sector for years to come.
For too long the UK has come up with an idea and then seen it commercialised elsewhere. This has to stop and we need to find ways where our companies can bring new technologies to market and then distribute the economic benefits throughout the entire supply chain.
You can also add Servitization into the mix. We used to think this was just for the big boys, but in recent months we have looked at how the MAN Group can offer ongoing support to our customers once the components have been supplied.
This isn’t just an emotive view of how UK manufacturing can prosper in the new world. We have numerous examples at Brandauer and at other members in the group where we have secured contracts to supply paper thin laminations, lightweight castings and housings for batteries.
The race is on…
All images supplied by The Manufacturing Assembly Network (MAN)