Industry needs post-Brexit assurances from government

Dick at HoC event 2   Dick Elsy, CEO – HVM Catapult

Long-term government commitment to the manufacturing sector has never been more important writes HVM Catapult chief Dick Elsy

I think it is fair to say that business and industry have been shocked by the outcome of the vote on 23 June and we have entered a period of political and economic uncertainty. Most industry leaders are supporting a “business as usual” stance, but to underpin this they require urgent reassurance and sight of long-term stability.

There’s an urgent and critical need for constancy of purpose and I offer up the High Value Manufacturing Catapult as the example of that constancy.

We have been operating for just approaching 5 years, helping industry to bring the UK’s best research into commercial reality. It’s an offer that industry has grasped very quickly.

Last year we helped over 3,000 companies. They included many leading industrial brands, but more than 1,700 – over 50% of the total – were SME’s. In the year we worked on over 1,800 projects bringing new manufacturing technology to market.

For every £1 of core funding we’ve locked in £15 of value to UK economy.

For every £1 of government funding we receive we are matching that with £1 from industry and also winning a further £1 in collaborative R&D from competitions.

Great news – but has any of this had economic impact? As the HVMC is run by industrialists we’ve been keen to set and deliver tough targets. We commissioned an independent study last year that showed for every £1 of core funding we’ve locked in £15 of value to UK economy.

It’s why it’s been successful and has led to the demand driven growth from £230m to £560m of assets available on an open sourced basis for companies to use.

Our Annual Review,  provides the details behind our success story. It also shamelessly concludes in its forward looking section that we need to do more of the same.

This holds true now, as more than ever, there is a need for constancy of purpose. Whatever the immediate future holds, the UK needs:

A world class innovation translation model to support UK companies and to act as an enduring attractant to international investment.

To continue to exploit its world class research capability and bring new products, processes and services to market. We have world class technology research and we have a mechanism to deliver this to market with IUK and the Catapult programme

To continue to drive productivity improvement in manufacturing to keep the UK globally competitive. The benefit to manufacturing of a weak pound is only transient. We need to look for long term advantage driven by innovation, supported by the HVMC. I contend that innovation is our only salvation.

A constant stream of talented young people embarking on a career in engineering and manufacturing.

And finally we need a rich seam of advanced manufacturing value-added in our economy.

All nations, developed and emerging, want this – we face fierce competition. We need therefore to protect our strong position with the HVM Catapult.

I’ve just come back from Paris from a benchmarking visit to meet our French counterparts – it’s no surprise that all nations worth their salt have a model like the Catapult.

It was very clear from that event that the French see the HVMC as a European benchmark in supporting industry to bring innovation into market. The HVM Catapult is now on an equal footing to our counterparts in Germany, in the perceived heartland of advanced manufacturing in Europe.

We now ask no more from our backers in government, industry and elsewhere than to support our “more of the same” approach.

It is interesting to note that their constancy of purpose has extended, now, beyond 75 years through the much-admired Fraunhofer institutes – the Catapult equivalent in Germany.

Through our work on advanced manufacturing we get a unique insight into the future shape of the UK’s industry. I can tell you that it looks exciting if we can provide reasons for it to flourish. Bringing challenging technology to market is risky but we’ve got a world-class capability in the HVMC to help with this.

Industry, post the Brexit vote, is seeking all assurances that UK government maintains its long-term support for this kind of risk-taking.

This level of support is on offer “as standard” in Europe – we cannot offer anything less to our internationally mobile industries.

We are offering practical and economic reasons to develop advanced manufacturing capability in the UK. We now ask no more from our backers in government, industry and elsewhere than to support our “more of the same” approach.