07 Apr CMF at the UK Industrial Strategy Seminar March 2017
On the 16th March, Ben Hale, our new Project Officer attended the ‘UK Industrial Strategy Seminar’ at the Institute of Mechanical Engineering in Westminster.
The seminar was an opportunity for businesses and associations to hear first-hand the thoughts of civil servants tasked with creating the new industrial strategy White Paper, with comment and discussion from various representatives from the UK’s business community.
This was an interesting seminar with detailed insight into government’s thinking and a good positive debate about the real challenges businesses in the UK face.
The initial message from industry bodies and academics was that the proposed strategy currently does not have clear enough objectives and no timeline, both of which are needed in to be able to measure success and create a goals that all involved can understand and strive to achieve.
Other delegates questioned whether the government was attempting to do too much under one strategy, diluting the plan’s overall effectiveness. There was also some scepticism that this was yet another strategy that wouldn’t survive the next election.
Tim Lord, Director of Industrial Strategy for BEIS, commented that the goal was ‘To improve living standards, increase productivity and drive economic growth across the whole country’. On being challenged that this was too ambitious, Mr Lord stressed that this strategy had the full support of the PM and the Cabinet Office and across all government departments.
Future R & D funding for projects were seen as vital to keep the UK at the forefront of technology and innovation, but there was criticism regarding the failure to turn new ideas into commercial ventures. Simon Edmonds from Innovate UK referred to the ‘valley of death’ in R&D processes, where the UK struggles to convert the many good ideas funded into commercially viable products and services.
Industry leaders and regional establishments all felt that the government needed to do better in the following areas: infrastructure projects, investment and planning in transport solutions across the UK, government procurement processes (with more favourable access and support for UK businesses and particularly SME’s), digital access and expertise and, most of all, providing an education system that will develop the future employees for industry and manufacturing.
Skills issues dominated later discussions, highlighting the consensus that the current education model has let down the manufacturing sectors. Investment in technical skills had been included in the March 2017 Budget.
Government was very clear on the need for UK businesses to embrace ‘Industry 4.0’. The need for companies to invest in the skills for the future was highlighted, especially around digital skills and knowledge about how to export.
There was some agreement that a ‘one size fits all’ strategy for the UK would not be appropriate, with regional strategies being valuable in order to grow specialisms and using their local understanding to overcome issues affecting business.
There were also calls for a review of the current network of regional business support. The lack of available support in the regions, and the fact that current was largely being run by local volunteers (such as the LEP’s), was not seen as less than perfect.
The government is genuinely looking for industry to guide its strategy. There is a set of definite criteria for any aspirational ‘sector deal’ to meet. These include sustainability, circular economy and a drive for increased productivity.
The Cast Metals Federation continues to work closely within the ‘Metals Council’ to lobby the Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy for a sector deal for the metals industry. We feel this is vital for our industry to get a voice and keep British foundries in the minds of policy makers in Whitehall.
UK Metals Council will be delivering its official response to the green paper in April, and we will report to members once this has been completed. http://ukmetalscouncil.org/