Call for action to boost UK manufacturing
The UK needs a master plan to unleash innovation in tech manufacturing, writes Marco Pisano, electronics programme manager at national industry body Intellect
Despite this government’s appearance to be listening industry more than the previous one, it still has failed to come up with a coherent industrial strategy for Britain.
It is well known how much industry needs long-term stability to trigger major corporate investments. The present confusion generated by lack of clarity about transport (especially airports and railways) and nuclear strategies, for example, is not only affecting prime contractors but also their technology partners as electronics systems are the key ingredients making these infrastructures more intelligent, reliable and efficient.
So far though, various succeeding governments have rarely considered this vital horizontal sector as part of the technology supply-chains of different vertical markets.
The electronics industry hence needs to be involved early on together with primes in the policy-making affecting the development of any national infrastructure where technology plays a major role.
A state-of-the-art infrastructure is also the starting point to create modern technology ecosystems as innovative companies need superfast broadband, modern transport links and affordable energy to operate productively.
Industrial policies should then follow to ensure UK based companies are well networked and equipped to develop innovative solutions and export globally.
The government of any successful manufacturing economy from Germany to China is proactive in backing the national industrial base and developing business-friendly policies ranging from education, tax and regulation to provision of grants and loans for various sectors.
Even in the US there are debates at present about a greater role of the state in shaping manufacturing ecosystems as it is now well accepted that production and innovation are interlinked and need to be closely located.
The idea that an economy can thrive only with research and design without the capacity to produce has proven flawed, especially as a result of the ongoing financial crisis.
The government should therefore come up with a coherent vision for industry aimed at attracting inward investments and boosting local SME innovation. Measures including tax benefits for capital investment and subsidised access to shared expensive equipment for SMEs ought to be considered together with a pro-growth public procurement policy that has exportability, and not only cost, as a key requirement.