Although 2017 is not showing many signs of being less eventful than 2016, the UK economy is faring better than many had predicted. So, with the Prime Minister’s outline Brexit plan now on the table, what does industry need from government to ensure that our economy continues to perform well and that we continue to play to our strengths in innovation and technology? That is one of the topics of the debate later this month at the EEF Annual Conference, where over 700 leaders from the world of manufacturing and engineering will come together around the topic of ‘Made in Britain, loved by the world’.
In true British can-do spirit, I expect the debate to focus on the opportunities that may arising from Brexit. Although most manufacturers were in favour of the UK remaining part of the EU, they have shown quick to accept the new reality and have demonstrated a real and pragmatic commitment to make it work. This is already reflected in recent figures from BDO and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, which show that most companies are not putting their growth ambitions or investment plans on hold and are firmly committed to making Brexit work.
It is critical that government works closely with industry and manufacturers to achieve the best possible deal for the UK in the forthcoming negotiations with the EU.
The government’s Industrial Strategy for the UK will be key in creating the right environment for industry to thrive in this country. An environment which allows us to recruit talent from across the world where required and to equip our workforce and young people with the right skills where we can. An environment which is attractive to investors and for those who want to expand and broaden our manufacturing capabilities. And an environment which helps us drive up UK productivity to be more in line with our competitor countries.
I am encouraged by the Prime Minister’s support for innovation and technology, as evidenced by the Chancellor’s Autumn statement announcement of an additional £4.7 billion in research and development (R&D) from 2017 to 2021. One of the new funding streams coming out of this is the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, which is a very important and welcome new instrument to further support and stimulate collaborations between business the UK science base.
At the HVM Catapult, we have a track record of success in bringing together industry and academia and we are ready to play our part in ensuring this new funding will achieve maximum impact. We will work closely with Innovate UK and others to shape the right programmes to boost UK manufacturing technology innovation and prepare UK industry to successfully compete in the post-Brexit world.