Why is now the time for Britain to reinforce its credentials as a leading industrial nation?
Manufacturing We have seen a welcome revival in manufacturing’s fortunes and the subsequent benefits for jobs, wages and the wider economy.
The time for manufacturing is now
For too long our manufacturing capability was allowed to decline. We must now ensure that manufacturing takes its rightful place at the centre of a well-managed, rebalanced economy.
It is time for manufacturers to step out from the shade and shine a light on what modern manufacturing looks like and can deliver for the UK in this high-tech age. But above all, it is time for parties vying for power at the next election to embrace the vision of Britain today as a nation of creators, innovators and makers.
The plan for the offensive
Our agenda for Government to 2020, lays out the blueprint for manufacturing success. It tells the next Government the key concerns they must tackle in order to provide manufacturers with the right conditions to prosper and grow.
It is time for manufacturers to step out from the shade and shine a light on what modern manufacturing looks like.
It tells Government not to shy away from crucial decisions and ambitious goals, but to have a long-term vision to set the policy foundations necessary for ensuring sustainable economic wellbeing.
The importance of staying in the EU
When it comes to crucial decisions, there is probably none more so than the decision to keep Britain within the EU. This is an issue of such national importance that it should transcend political divides and party loyalties. The outcome affects the country’s wealth, jobs and opportunities – it should never have been allowed to become the toxic political football that it is today.
The fact that 85% of manufacturers want Britain to remain in the EU speaks volumes. Industry leaders have sound reasons for wanting this – but the danger in the current melee is that their voices will not be heard. If indeed we do end up leaving the EU, many will find themselves cut off from a key market. To think that this will not impact on economic performance, jobs and growth is to be in denial.
It goes without saying that remaining in a reformed, efficient and more workable EU is top of industry’s agenda. But aside from that, still far more needs to be done if we want to be a great manufacturing and trading nation again.
If we are to successfully underpin a long-term industrial strategy, we need a relentless focus on ensuring that this country has the right skills to support balanced growth. We need to see more funds and incentives to support innovation, including the blossoming catapult centres, which nurture new manufacturing ideas.
We need to adopt a serious approach to improving infrastructure planning and delivery – from road to rail, and of course airports, where we must stop prevaricating. Finally, we must see a reduction in the cost of energy together with improved security of supply.
How can we ensure that we achieve ambitious industrial goals and hold a new Government to account in 2015? The current Chancellor, George Osborne, set a bold target for UK companies to achieve £1 trillion of exports by 2020. Whether or not this is achieved, I applaud such a target and the political direction it has given to policy makers.
I would urge our political leaders to be brave enough to set out a long-term pathway to better balanced growth and bold enough to put Britain at the forefront of a new industrial age. It is time to get behind the manufacturing renaissance.