MHA report calls for increased commitment to manufacturing

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MHA Manufacturing Report - .PDF file.

A new report is calling on the government to improve its commitment to manufacturing in Britain.

According to a recent SME manufacturing round table hosted by the MHA Manufacturing Group, while the UK is still faced with economic uncertainty and the manufacturing industry has some significant challenges ahead, there are strong grounds for optimism.

Manufacturing directly employs 2.5 million people, generates half of UK exports and accounts for three quarters of business research and development conducted in the UK.

However, for the industry to increase its contribution to economic recovery, a more comprehensive national manufacturing strategy that specifically deals with the issues facing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is needed from government.  

Increasing awareness of the support already available for the sector is key, coupled with a concerted effort to increase career appeal to attract high-calibre candidates.

The round table, which is said to have brought together managing directors and financial directors from UK SME manufacturing and engineering businesses, focused on formulating practical and achievable recommendations aimed at helping UK SMEs in the sector to compete more effectively in the global economy.

The recommendations focused on four key areas: government strategy; education and skills; funding and grants; and taxation.

In a statement, Chris Coopey, head of manufacturing at MHA, said: ‘While the industry remains buoyant about its future, there is a strong need for more support and guidance from government to ensure growth for this vital sector.

‘The current challenges for UK manufacturing are profound — from the long-term threats posed by emerging markets to the current economic downturn.

‘The manufacturing and engineering sector as a whole requires brand development and long-term investment to ensure it is seen as an attractive career option and as an important part of the UK’s economic and social future.’

A major focus of the round table was the need for better communication from government about the help and resources available to SMEs in the sector.

Coopey said: ‘Even where there are supportive initiatives, information about them is scattered and often not well communicated. The feeling in the room was that a new body needs to be formed to do this, but if more could be done to promote the resources and information that MAS [the Manufacturing Advisory Service] offers, with a much better-resourced website, then that would be a big step.

‘It is essential to streamline resources available to the sector to ensure that information is easily available and that the accessibility and delivery of support is consistent across the whole of the UK.’

According to Coopey, despite operating in a high-wage, high-cost economy, there is strong evidence that building a robust and advanced manufacturing sector is possible and worth pursuing.

Coopey said: ‘If the SME manufacturing and engineering sector, which is so vital to the regeneration of the UK, is to experience accelerated growth, it will need an aggressive mix of government support, simpler tax legislation, central resources and streamlined processes and — without a doubt — a keen focus on raising the appeal of the sector as well as enhancement to the way we deliver education and training.

‘Manufacturing and engineering are vital to the reinvigoration and re-balancing of the UK economy. As a result of the manufacturing round table, we can put forward practical and achievable strategies to ensure that the SME businesses in the sector are more effectively supported by government. These will soon be delivered to Vince Cable and BIS [Business, Innovation and Skills] in order to lobby government.’

A copy of MHA’s manufacturing report can be found here.