Rising to the Challenge; key priorities for the government’s Industrial Strategy

As the Prime Minister gives her full endorsement for the development and implementation of a robust Industrial Strategy, the stage is set for an exciting time for UK manufacturing.

Typically, government investment intervention policy is to spread stimulus funding broadly and therefore, often, rather thinly.  The current focus however, centres on Industrial Strategy Challenges, which has the potential to get some serious weight behind big pressing issues, and which provides us with the unique opportunity to tackle significant national challenges at scale.

In my experience of over 30 years in the Automotive Industry and five years at the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, I see several key priorities and opportunities ahead.

First of all, we need to focus on a getting our basics right. If we don’t have the right infrastructure in place, we will fail to fully exploit other advancements. And I’m not just talking about our need – as an advanced nation – to have a transportation infrastructure that is fit for purpose in the shape of roads, rail and airports. In fact, I believe upgrading our digital infrastructure and high-speed fibre network will prove even more critical to drive up productivity and enable us to exploit the opportunities of the fourth Industrial Revolution. These are just examples of the types of big issues as I see them. Helping industry – and SMEs in particular – make the most of these and lock value and jobs into the UK economy will prove tremendously important.

It’s important and encouraging that government has recognised that we need to take on these big-ticket projects, and has also accepted that in order to be a leading industrial nation we need to invest in science, research and innovation.

The government has announced extra funding of £2B per annum by 2020 in science and innovation, starting with an extra £450m in 2017-18. This shows immediate intent to support the industry, which already has a very stimulating effect on the science and innovation community.

HVM Catapult’s role in achieving national priorities

HVM Catapult is the go-to place for advanced manufacturing technologies in the UK. We are a neutral convener of collaborative activity between businesses, between sectors, and between industry, academia and government.  We recognise that we are uniquely placed to bring key players together around issues of real importance to the future of UK advanced manufacturing, such as Additive and digital Manufacturing, mass electrification and the creation of new supply chains for new materials. In partnership, we articulate national strategies and action plans that set out the main issues and suggest actions to accomplish success.

Working in partnership with others in the landscape is core to our way of working. We work in close partnership with the Institution of Engineering and Technology, for example, on promoting so-called Horizontal Innovation – taking learning and technology from one sector and adapting it to achieve success in another sector. Our work with the Construction Industry for example, involves introducing established manufacturing technologies from aerospace and automotive into a construction setting. This is proving to be a relatively speedy, cost-effective and low-risk way of innovating which has the potential to create real benefit across a wide variety of sectors.

I advise all manufacturers to engage with the Industrial Strategy process. Now is the time to make your voice heard and to play a part in shaping future of UK manufacturing.

To reply to the consultation, go to: www.gov.uk/government/consultations/building-our-industrial-strategy

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