As previously posted, Squire Patton Boggs and TheBusinessDesk.com surveyed the UK’s manufacturing sector and conducted a series of roundtables to determine what the industry needs in order to stay competitive in the global market.  The resulting manufacturing report gauges levels of confidence within the manufacturing sector and what businesses want to see from the government during the next 12 months to sustain growth.

Some key findings include:

  • 83% of respondents want to see the UK remain part of the EU
  • 60% cited the skills gap as the most significant issue
  • 96% think there should be a greater focus on STEM subjects
  • 58% do not think there is enough support for research and development
  • 55% believe new technology and digital intelligence are likely to have greatest impact on future growth.

Notably, membership with the EU is a major concern.  An exit from the EU would hinder access to European markets, the UK’s largest trading partner, and compromise the UK’s ability to work as part of the EU to secure trade deals worldwide. Manufacturers are expressing concern that an exit from the EU would halt growth and damage the sector.

Breaking from the EU would also lead to a greater widening of the skills gap, another major concern of manufacturers.  Though development of the STEM agenda in the UK remains a top priority, the current demand for skilled workers is largely fulfilled by the free movement of workers from the EU.

Looking to the future, manufacturers would like to see more support for research and development, as well as further investment in innovation.  More than half of businesses surveyed believe embracing technological innovations – including smart and highly connected factories, 3D printing/additive manufacturing and digital manufacturing, robotics and use of drones and next-generation power sources – is of fundamental importance to achieving growth.

The report makes the following recommendations:

  • EU Referendum: The government must lead a coherent and informed debate about the UK’s future in the EU.
  • Energy: The cost of energy in the UK is, on average, about 35% more expensive than the rest of Europe. We back the EEF view that the government needs to commit to keep UK energy costs at, or below, the EU average.
  • Skills: This is the biggest challenge the sector is facing.  Manufacturers would like to see positive government policy around the STEM agenda. There also needs to be greater collaboration with education institutions to build the brand of manufacturing as a sector offering interesting, rewarding and challenging careers.  Skills training funded by industry through statutory apprenticeship levies is one interesting idea currently being debated; an idea which has the potential to reshape technical education to ensure it is technically and industrially relevant and delivers the highly skilled workforce required for the future.
  • Government support for R&D: Manufacturers need to work more closely with the government to focus on creating a long term strategic plan to drive the sector forward.

The Manufacturing 2015 report is available for download here:

North West Report Online

West Midlands Report

Yorkshire Report