Make it Here optimism and can-do realism soften the blow of Covid and geopolitics
Three things dominate the minds of company directors in April/May: inflation, energy prices and supply shortages. They are interlinked.
I would confidently guess that every single sector or sub-sector of manufacturing is experiencing shortages and delays of materials. Prices of key materials and components are high and often, seemingly, at a multiple way above CPI inflation. When you read this, energy prices will have further increased and the age of cheap food, created by intense supermarket competition and innovation, is over.
What a time to be optimistic about growing the manufacturing sector.
And yet thousands of people who work in and around engineering and manufacturing are confident and positive. The Covid pandemic, the worst of it, is over. Demand is back. The economy grew by 0.8% in Q1 – on track with forecasts. Read this book for hundreds of good, forward-looking news stories.
A big theme is supply shortages: delivery times can be four-times normal. So, talk of reshoring is rising again – these pages show the reality that the UK can build a new automotive battery industry from scratch, and should also have a sovereign capability for critical components such as semiconductors.
UKMO – this book – contains numerous examples of companies in all corners of the UK investing in new technologies and equipment, brand-new facilities, R&D, people, exports and jobs. This activity supports many service companies, from architects and construction firms to tech providers and transport companies.
Evidence why manufacturing matters can be found on p29, including the findings of a landmark study which does much to quantify the full contribution of industry. This is especially relevant given a story in The Times that appeared in late April, “Focus on boosting services not reviving industry, ministers told”.
The article quotes a think tank researcher as saying; “Reorienting the economy towards manufacturing, as some have encouraged, risks squandering the UK’s significant long-term economic strengths.”
That is the opposite of what is needed. I may be biased, but now is the time to refocus and reinvest in industry, as Tony Hague explains on p197. Events in recent years have confirmed the critical need for a strong and diverse domestic manufacturing capability; if we produced no steel here, how would the construction and rail sectors operate if China switched it off?
Business leaders’ efforts to survive, grow and launch new products are being supported by the UK’s famous innovation ecosystem, which includes government agency Innovate UK, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult.
These organisations and other RTOs are helping businesses to capitalise on what they are good at – check out all the great content from AMRC, Innovate UK and the EPSRC Future Hubs inside. We must also retain the value, the IP, of new, life-changing research and development made in the UK.
We hope you enjoy reading the stories of some great companies, organisations and products. The publisher Will Stirling and I would like to thank all those who have helped us to share them – our sponsors, contributors, supporters and our ever-tolerant, if now slightly broken, design team – thank you all!
Editor, UK Manufacturing Outlook 2022