Brains not brawn

If the UK has the will, it has the way to dominate the global industry for nanotechnology.

Our scientists and engineers have demonstrated thought, leadership and practical implementation of invisible engineering. We hold, in short, what can truly be regarded as the global leading-edge in micro and nanotechnologies impacting on everything from medicine to telecommunications.

While the UK’s engineers and scientists would decry the dearth of our manufacturing industry, there has in fact been a gradual but continuous decline that effectively started after World War II. The aggressive competition from first the far east and more latterly other developing countries is not to blame for the overall UK manufacturing demise.

Of course wage bills are lower in developing countries, but with judicious investment in automation, the labour content of many goods has reduced impact on the final selling price. Rather, it was our nation’s lack of investment and incentive that allowed that competition to prosper. We will never recover the lost volume-manufacturing industries, nor will we see a return of smaller, but strategically important, sectors such as machine tools, textile machinery or woodworking equipment.

Our industrial future lies in the planned exploitation of our biggest exportable asset — knowledge. This is equally true whether we are creating machines capable of writing the Bible on a grain of sand, building one of the biggest and most powerful synchrotron microscopes, inventing organic machines for medical purposes or designing robots capable of an accuracy of nanometres.

For anyone tempted to take this statement with a pinch of salt, let me remind them that you can fit about 1,000 nanometres on to a grain of sand.

Manufacturing in the UK still makes up about 18 per cent of the gross national product. If this is to remain such a significant contributor, the government and its bodies of authority, academia and private enterprise must incentivise and nurture our outstandingly talented people or others will do so.

Andrew Joslin

Managing Director

Delta Tau UK