22 Jul 2024

AUTOMATION FOR MANUFACTURING

Manufacturers lay out agenda for next UK Government

Scuoler: a clear vision is needed

Britain’s manufacturers have set out their priorities for the next government to drive better balanced growth, boost trade and investment and, deliver long-term economic security.

In a new manifesto, An Agenda for Government to 2020, the UK manufacturers’ organisation EEF lays down a challenge to all three of the main political parties to set out a clear vision for the UK economy over the next Parliament to provide certainty for business and to help boost investment. EEF believes the priorities must include a commitment to keep the UK in a reformed EU.

“After such a traumatic period following the financial crash of 2008, we are now at a crucial stage for our economy, with confidence on the rise and a long-overdue recovery in UK business investment,” says EEF chief executive, Terry Scuoler. “This is delivering stronger growth, boosting job creation and enabling more companies to develop overseas markets.

“Let us not pretend, however, that we are seeing the better-balanced growth we need for the long term, which still remains a long way off,” he continues. “Business has a crucial role to play, but government must also be a collaborative partner.

“All parties must now set out a clear vision for the UK economy, including how they will support rebalancing, strengthening the role of industry and manufacturing over the next Parliament,” Scouler demands. “Party leaders also need to set out how they will attack the obstacles that companies of all sizes face in becoming world class.”

EEF believes the current UK government has made some progress with a generally supportive tax environment – in particular, research and development, and efforts to boost innovation and apprenticeships. The focus on boosting trade through agencies such as UKTI, which has received extra funding, should also bear fruit by the end of the decade.

EEF is urging the next government to avoid change for the sake of change and let those policies which are working and, for which business is generally supportive, continuing to bed down and achieve their potential. The next government should, however, build on current policy by focusing on the five areas. EEF makes specific recommendations on each.

Skills EEF says there is a need for motivated, skilled young people capable of entering the world of manufacturing, engineering and wider industry. It says that Government should:

•  maintain an apprenticeship training system that is robust, long-lasting and resistant to short-term change;

•  drive up teaching standards by increasing the number of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) specialists in secondary schools; and

•  make the UK’s immigration system less costly and less complicated for businesses, particularly SMEs.

Innovation The UK needs to fund and incentivise businesses to research and develop new products, technologies and services and support exporters to sell more abroad. In particular, it needs to:

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•  include funding for innovation within an expanded science and innovation ring-fence, with a commitment to increase the combined budget in real terms by the end of the next Parliament;

•  commit sufficient funding to the existing network of Catapult Centres to ensure that they remain cutting-edge and work to encourage higher levels of engagement with SMEs;

•  develop a longer-term framework for regular assessment of the breadth of science and innovation support to ensure all schemes remain well-directed and adequately funded; and

•  increase funding for export initiatives and overseas in-country support.

Infrastructure The Government needs to ensure that the UK is ahead of the curve in providing vital transport and digital capability as part of its long-term planning. It should:

•  commit to creating a UK Infrastructure Authority to strengthen analysis behind decisions on major infrastructure investments and support the decision-making process to ensure that the right plans are in place at the right time; and

•  implement the recommendations of the Airports Commission after the next election.

Energy and resource security The UK needs to put in place the planning, investment and technology needed to secure a competitively-priced energy supply and other natural resources for the future.

Staying in the EU According to EEF, 85% of UK manufacturers believe that the UK’s national interest will be best served by staying in a reformed EU, which is focused on trade, extending the free market and improving opportunities for growth in jobs and industry among all member states.