Support for Manufacturing

Gay Sutton reports on the Government’s Manufacturing Strategy Review and asks what does it offer for the future of the sector?

Following many months of consultation and study, the Government has finally published its long awaited Manufacturing Strategy Review. Building on the review of 2002, the document sets out Government’s vision for the future of manufacturing in the UK: the challenges it faces, how the global marketplace is evolving and the opportunities
that are there to be exploited. And finally it proposes a clear and extensive strategy for supporting manufacturing.

One of the first things to leap out from the publication is that there seems to be a genuine understanding and acknowledgement of the excellence of UK manufacturing,
its value to the UK economy and its critical importance to the future prosperity of the nation.

The review identifies five key areas where it believes Government action and support can significantly improve manufacturing’s performance and competitiveness and open
up new markets. The document then delivers an action plan that includes proposed investment levels, a clear timeline for delivery and perhaps most importantly it designates responsibility for delivery to named organisations.

This is perhaps one of the biggest lessons that seems to have been learned from the original 2002 strategy which, while creating some excellent initiatives, such as the
Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS), and the National Skills Academy for Manufacturing, has singularly failed to deliver in other areas.

Baroness Shriti Vadera, minister for business and competitiveness at BERR, who headed up the review along with Delyth Morgan from the Department for Innovation, Universities and Schools (DIUS), assured me that Government was wholeheartedly committed to the review. “We will drive each area of the strategy forward by a rigorous implementation process that we are establishing with key partners, including Regional Development
Agencies,” she promised. “This strategy is a high priority for both BERR and DIUS.”

That is reassuring, but governments do come and go, and ministers have an unfortunate habit of following each other in a continuous cycle of change and renewal. The sector
needs to be assured that this is a long-term commitment that transcends politics and personalities. “The 2008 strategy is not a party political policy,” she insisted. “The
strategy has been developed with the help of industry and is putting in place measures for the long-term future of the manufacturing sector.

“In many areas, manufacturers can expect to see enhanced support in place quickly,” she continued. “For example, to help more companies take advantage of value chain opportunities in India and China, we will be recruiting specialist advisers to be deployed by the end of this year. And, as part of its ongoing support for manufacturing, the Technology Strategy Board will issue in early 2009 a new £24 million call for high value manufacturing R&D projects, with an expectation that successful projects will be underway within around six months.

“Some policy measures will necessarily have a longer delivery time but we are committed to ensuring that each policy will be driven forward without delay.”

With these promises on the table, let’s have a look at some of the key points that come out of the review, how much is going to be spent, and who will be delivering and when.

At a glance…

Global value chains
Perceiving that it is vital for manufacturers of all sizes to become part of the global value chain, the review proposes that:

– India and China: UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) will put together a new package of support for 600 companies of all sizes to identify opportunities in India and China. It will recruit new industry experts to assist in this, and will promote UKmanufacturing through a range of marketing campaigns. This is to be in place by the second quarter of 2009.

– Intellectual property: A new publication from the IP Office provides guidance on protecting and exploiting intellectual property in key emerging markets. Available now.

– Clusters: BERR and UKTI will develop a new ‘Cluster Mark’ award to support and encourage clusters and raise the profile of cluster members.

Technology exploitation

Utilising the latest technology across all areas of the business can create that all important competitive advantage, while companies that develop new technology will ride the crest of the wave rather than spend their lives catching up. The proposals are:

– Coventry Manufacturing Technology Centre. Government will invest £30 million through Advantage West Midlands and EMDA to deliver this new facility by 2010. Over 10 years the centre is expected to see £130 million business-led applied research and its exploitation. Government is also keen to receive proposals for widening the scope of the network of Technology Centres.

– Collaborative R&D: The Technology Strategy Board will be investing a further £24 million into collaborative business-to-business and business-to-academia research projects focused on products, production processes, services and
value systems. It will also streamline the process by which it assesses applications for funding into new projects.

– Innovation vouchers: Over the English regions, the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) will provide 500 SMEs with an innovation voucher to work with a knowledge-base
institution of their choice – an overall investment of £3 million to be delivered by 2011. Government’s aspiration is that, if proven effective, the number of vouchers may be
doubled to 1000.

Intangibles

Acknowledging that investment into other intangible areas such as software, design and branding have a considerable impact on competitiveness, the review promises:

– Design makes a difference: The Design Council and the RDAs will strengthen the uptake of the Designing Demand programme, and will improve its linkage to other business support programmes such as the MAS. The programme helps companies exploit good design to boost performance and increase their market share. DIUS is to oversee this initiative.

– Design skills: Support will be provided for the UK Design Skills Alliance, a new organisation to deliver the skills needed by the industry, to drive professional development and provide a link between practicing designers and academia.

People and skills

A skilled and motivated workforce is essential to competitiveness. Companies are investing but there is, and will continue to be, a huge gap in skills unless strong action is taken. The review pledges the following:

– Access to training: From April 2009, Business Link with be the single port of call for all business support. In addition, no matter which national, regional and local skills organisation you go to, you should be able to receive a single seamless service for addressing skills needs. DUIS, BERR, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) and the RDAs have been tasked to ensure the delivery of this.

– Simplification of the system: UKCES is developing proposals to simplify the skills system, reporting to Government in autumn 2008. The manufacturing sector is to be a first pilot for relevant proposals; including building Train to Gain as a more integrated
service that offers a range of options for employers.

– Apprenticeships: 1,500 new high apprenticeship places will be created. To accelerate output from this, bids will be invited from larger manufacturers to train more apprentices than they need, including for their supply chains. Note: this is in addition to the 9,000 new apprentice enrolments promised for manufacturers recently by the Sector Skills Councils. DUIS and LSC to deliver this.

– Image of manufacturing: The new body, Manufacturing Insight, will be created, tasked with improving the public perception of manufacturing, informing the media and making young people are aware of the career opportunities. BERR and DUIS to oversee.

– Engaging schools: To promote manufacturing to young people BERR, DIUS and DCSF will be launching the ‘Manufacturing the Future’ campaign. It will use the Science and Engineering Ambassadors and work with Manufacturing Insight.

Low carbon

With many business opportunities ahead for low carbon technologies, the strategy proposes:

– Exploiting the low carbon revolution: A new low carbon industrial strategy to be published in 2009, bringing together all Government activity to help manufacturers adapt to the low carbon economy and identify and respond to growing market
opportunities. BERR to deliver.

– Nuclear power capability: Aimed at ensuring UK manufacturing can participate in global nuclear power building, a newly created Office of Nuclear Development will provide clear information on the needs of the UK programme, help develop capability where gaps are identified, identify and address skills and technology needs, and work with UKTI to develop export strategies. BERR is to oversee.

– Renewable energy: The Office for Renewable Energy Deployment (ORED) will be established, which among other duties will raise the global profile of manufacturers in the supply chain. Alongside MAS and UKTI, it will advise manufacturers on how to effectively exploit the growing renewable market. BERR to deliver.

– Cars: Already supporting a pilot programme for electric cars, Government promised to develop a programme for low carbon and fuel cell technologies.