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Manufacturers doubt UK has specific industrial strategy

More than 90 per cent of UK manufacturers don’t believe the government has a specific manufacturing strategy in place, a new report says.

Despite this lack of confidence in government, manufacturers are upbeat about the economic outlook, with one third of companies predicting growth of more than 10 per cent in 2012, according to the survey of 145 firms by accountant and business adviser group MHA.

MHA chairman Mike Brown said recent government statements and plans had indicated a greater interest in rebuilding the UK’s manufacturing but that more extensive and immediate action was needed.

‘I think [manufacturers] are encouraged by some of the initiatives but I still feel they believe they’re not valued in the same way that some of the professions are valued,’ he told The Engineer.

He admitted that some of the perception of current government strategy may be a result of a much longer period of neglect.

‘People do believe the government are trying and I suspect a lot of it is people tend to look back over the last couple of decades rather than the last few years.

‘They look at places such as Germany, the way that it has supported its automotive sector in particular, and the way our government has supported the banks.’

Government funding and education were two areas the survey found a particular issue with government strategy.

Only 48 per cent of respondents believed they had access to government grants while 59 per cent believed the government’s apprenticeship scheme would not allow them to take on more apprentices.

Specific comments in the survey highlighted a perceived lack of government initiative, long-term planning and not enough visibility for schemes such as the Manufacturing Advisory Service.

Mark Swift, spokesperson for the manufacturers’ organisation EEF, told The Engineer: ‘We believe there have been some positive steps to support manufacturing within the current fiscal constraints.

‘[These include] focus on apprenticeships, an increase in funding for UKTI, technology innovation centres, changes to R&D tax credit, to name some, but [the government] needs to re-invigorate its wider growth strategy.’

Readers' comments (6)

  • Government funding is not a good solution - it gives businesses a competitive edge which they may not deserve and creates a culture of dependency.
    Less intervention, regulation and taxation would help in the immediate future and better, real, education for further ahead.

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  • The old adage is still viable, "As you sow so shall you reap". 1997 to 2005 saw a government that decided a society that depends on service industry is more valuable than one that relies on manufacturing. So we have ended up with supposed income producing organisations that are pushing the same pound coin around from place to place with little or no new earning potential. The education requirements of school leavers were reduced long before this in order to save expenditure, remember the Conservatives sale of school sports grounds, and gain falsely attained "success" levels which was expanded upon by the Labour government and - here we are. Manufacturing companies in great fiscal and regulatory restraints with limited educationally qualified new entrants available to continue the work to grow the industry. Recovery to any form of world leadership in the industrial sector will be long and fraught with failures even if the Government actually does something, today, to encourage growth. The future is not a pretty picture.

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  • It's not possible to turn round decades of under-valuing engineering and technology in a couple of years, but both Lib Dem and Conservative manifestos for 2010 contained some useful intentions.

    Politicians are of course trying to create jobs and balance the economy, not just support manufacturing - and the general media aren't good at pushing publicity about industrial policy, it's not 'sexy'!

    Job creation is stronger in the service sector, which explains support for this, but manufacturing needs to contribute to improving the balance of payments. And manufacturing and innovation are needed for long-term profitability.

    The Dept for Business, Innovation and Skills has been delivering on some of the manifesto promises (like apprenticeships) under Lib Dem Vince Cable.

    It's a pity that he hasn't had understanding support from his Conservative colleague Michael Gove in Education. A commitment to "improve the quality of vocational education" in the Coalition Agreement seems to have been interpreted as justifying down-grading even good vocational courses like the Engineering Diplomas created to meet manufacturing's need at the JCB Academy, one of the new University Technical Colleges.

    There's more on this at if you're interested.

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  • Industrial strategy?

    What industrial strategy?. Unfortunately, governments over the past 40 years have managed to strangle the life blood of the UK (manufacturing) to death, preferring instead to fritter away £millions of our money on lame ducks such as badly managed financial institutions, which add little or nothing to the economy. There is no doubt that services are important, but you can't run an economy on services alone, although politicians and economists don't seem to realise this.

    A country's success depends on it's manufacturing and production output e.g. Germany - cars, white goods, success; Greece - vegetables, olive oil, tourism, fail.

    When ships, cars, trains and electronic goods were produced in the UK, it prospered and unemployment was low, but now that UK produces (I can't think of anything) unemployment is high.

    Thanks to our service economy, I can insure my car through any one of 346 organisations, but only buy spare parts from two

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  • I am not English, but it is interesting to hear the opinion of manufacturing strategy in other countries as well: There is practically no strategy.
    What they like: Big civil engineering projects (like huge bridges, olympics), that I think never pay back, but Banks, financial institutions and one engineering company near to financial institution)
    Check the Instrumentation & control manufacturers in UK. All major are bought by USA global companies, and 50% closed in.
    Same is in almost all European countries.
    Tertial activities: Financial services only.

    As long as the status of manufacturers including workers in manufacturers industry will not be same as the status of financial institutions including banks, the crises in western countries and USA will not be solved.

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  • If it is so obvious to the engineering fraternity that having a high added value manufacturing base is essential for growth, should this be a subject that should be taught at Eton and Harrow?

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