Manufacturing will play a vital role in the UK's transition to a low-carbon economy and must be supported by government according to Pat McFadden, Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills.
The Minister made his comments at the recent Labour Party Conference fringe event entitled, ‘Do the British make anything anymore? Why the UK needs to nurture its manufacturing sector?’
“Yes, we do”, was the clear answer of Pat McFadden. He stressed its role in the transition to low carbon production and the energy sector. The Minister added that the Government has launched a fund to realise its objectives and to help raise money for the manufacturing sector.
Believing that it is government’s job to support the engineering sector, Mr McFadden said that it should help secure the future of manufacturing and to make it more capable to deal with economic challenges. He said that it was essential for British economy to develop strategies to help realising this objective.
Mr McFadden explained that better communication between government departments was needed in order to effectively make decisions such as buying high-tech equipment.
Opening the debate, Will Hutton from The Work Foundation, emphasised the importance of turning away from “financial engineering” to “real engineering”. Welcoming that statement from Business Secretary Lord Mandelson on Monday, Mr Hutton observed that “we are currently seeing an incredible renaissance for the manufacture sector”.
Speaking next, Financial Times’ columnist Stefan Stern, reported that Britain must become more serious about the future of manufacturing, and called for a pioneering and championing role. Bearing in mind the government’s 50% target to get young people into higher education, Mr Stern said that it would be beneficial to focus on the manufacturing and engineering sector in order to be able to globally compete, in developing skills and to enhance research and development in the manufacturing field. He announced that “this is the right time to be ambitious about manufacturing”, and that “the media has to play its part in being serious about manufacturing now and in the future”.
Steve Radley, chief economist of the EEF, referred to the upcoming General Election and the need to be specific and serious about identifying ways on how engineering could achieve an effective and efficient return for both the manufacturing sector and the British economy.
He went on to explain, that the manufacturing sector was already more innovative, productive compared to other countries, and led in niche areas. Pointing out further examples where manufacturing plays a major role, such as heating systems and energy production and in the automotive, construction and building sector.