Reshoring could supercharge UK electrification

Britain’s drive towards electrification presents a major reshoring opportunity according to a survey of 200 senior executives from the European battery industry.

electrification
(Image: Protolabs)

The survey – titled ‘In Charge’ and backed by Protolabs – has revealed that 84 per cent of UK companies are looking to bring parts of their supply chain closer to their manufacturing base over the next twelve months.

Global disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a desire to localise supply chains, and an increasing number of firms are looking to increase security of supply and speed to market whilst reducing their carbon footprint.

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Over three quarters (77 per cent) of UK respondents are also looking to outsource component production to specialist manufacturers, whilst 86 per cent are planning on launching a new battery product or storage system during the next 12 months.

“With just six per cent of battery manufacturing taking place in Europe, we are still heavily reliant on battery cell imports and, with demand for electric vehicles increasing rapidly, there is an understanding this has to change,” said Bjoern Klaas, vice president and managing director of Protolabs Europe.

“The UK’s appetite to be at the forefront of the electrification race is clearly evident, but increasingly pleasing is the determination to create stronger domestic supply chains that can support battery development and production.”

He continued: “This isn’t just headline ‘gigafactories’ either, but covers new technology, production components and, according to 84 per cent of the companies surveyed in the UK, investment in increasing additive manufacturing capabilities.”

In addition to the growing reshoring trend, respondents highlighted sustainability as the UK’s main differentiator when looking to challenge battery development and manufacture in the Far East and other international territories.

Over two thirds (68 per cent) of executives believe their businesses will gain competitive advantage by increasing their environmental capability (four per cent above the European average), whilst the same figure predicts that the principles of the circular economy could prove crucial when attracting inward investment.

Bjoern said: “Sustainability means the entire value chain… raw materials, supply chain, manufacturing and recycling – they will all need to comply with strict Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) criteria.

“The UK is well placed to achieve this when compared with other nations, but there is still work do, with 63 per cent of those surveyed worried about the sourcing of responsible raw material practices and a similar number concerned about the use of renewable energy in production.”

He concluded: “There are also some warning signs for the government to consider in our findings, primarily that over half of executives feel they are over-incentivising hydrogen projects at the expense of battery storage technology.

“29 per cent of companies are also calling on Whitehall to increase spending, so the UK can overcome uncertainty about returns on investment and policy direction – two of the biggest potential risks to the domestic battery sector.”

Protolabs completed the ‘In Charge’ survey in Spring 2021.