The UK high tech manufacturing sector is still optimistic about its future, despite a lacklustre outlook for the general economy and mounting uncertainty in the eurozone, according to a survey by GE that polled 400 high tech firms.
More than three-quarters (77%) of the 402 high tech manufacturers questioned for the fourth wave of the GE High Tech Index in June 2012 said that they felt either very positive (31%) or fairly positive (46%) about the current performance of their own business.
This represents a slight improvement in sentiment since the last high tech survey in December 2011 when 73% of those questioned indicated they were either very positive or fairly positive about their own business prospects.
Nearly half of the manufacturers questioned said the eurozone crisis was leading them to focus more new business efforts on developing markets, while 42% said the Eurozone crisis meant they were also placing more attention and effort on the UK market.
Engineering skills shortages were also highlighted in the survey with almost two-thirds (65%) of those who had been recruiting engineers over the last 12-months saying that they had difficulty recruiting the right engineering staff, particularly for mid-level or senior positions. Many businesses are focusing on retraining existing employees or enlisting new recruits as a way to plug skills gaps.
In terms of future prospects there was significant optimism. 68% of those questioned said they expected the performance of their business to either be a lot better (18%) or a little better (50%) in the next year while just 8% expect conditions to worsen.
However, they were less optimistic about the UK economy in general – though more positive about the general economic outlook than in the December 2011 survey, when confidence in the general economy amongst those surveyed was very low. In the latest survey 25% of those questioned said they were either very positive (6%) or fairly positive (19%) about the current economic situation with 73% saying they had either a neutral (39%) or negative (34%) outlook. In December 2011 just 4% said they were very positive about economic conditions and 11% said they were fairly positive.