Yesterday’s announcement that the government is to invest £151m in “advanced manufacturing” has been rightly and roundly hailed as a good thing. Banish from your minds for a moment the huge volumes of cash that have been pumped into the banks and it even manages to sound like a lot of money.
But while this latest stimulus package has been trumpeted by all and sundry – and most loudly by the government – as a “package” of measures that will help stimulate our high-tech “industries”, it is perhaps worth noting that the investment is largely targeted at one industry.
A total of £45m is going to Rolls-Royce, which is combining the funds with a £300m investment of its own to establish four new manufacturing facilities: three in aerospace (producing fan blades for the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, advanced alloy disks for aero-engines, and single crystal blade castings) and one in civil nuclear.
A further £45m is going towards Rolls Royce led research on the development of low carbon aero-engine technology, while £40m is being invested in the SAMULET programme, another aerospace project led by Rolls Royce.
You will probably have noticed by now that despite £12m going to the printable electronics centre in Sedgefield, and £500,000 towards the establishment of a centre of excellence for silicon design, this is, on the whole, an investment in the aerospace industry and should perhaps be described as such.
The Engineer would hate to be accused of being a party pooper – the UK’s expertise in aero-engine development is truly world leading and worthy of investment. Strategic investment of this kind is exactly what’s needed at the current time. But as readers of The Engineer know well, there are many other industries present in the UK that could rightly describe themselves as “advanced manufacturing operations”, and they will be hoping that yesterday’s announcement was free of spin and will be followed by investments in the numerous other areas where the UK has the potential for leadership.