24 Jul 2024


Manufacturers need help if UK is to achieve full potential

The need to move towards net-zero emissions is adding to the pressures faced by UK manufacturers. Nikesh Mistry*, Gambica’s sector head for industrial automation, argues that if they are to make the transition, they will need government assistance. 

This autumn, the UK will host the 26th UN Climate Change conference in Glasgow, with the aim of accelerating the goals of the Paris Agreement, and developing the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. To support this initiative, Andrew Griffith MP, who is the UK’s net-zero business champion, has written to the manufacturing sector, explaining how it can get involved in the UK Business Climate Hub – a pioneering global initiative that aims to create a tipping point for mainstreaming climate action and building business resilience.

The aim is to support millions of SMEs in halving their greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and to help the UK achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. There are many different schemes running in parallel to help UK businesses hit this target.

Yes, the UK needs to make the transition to a low-carbon economy, but the government must not forget the pressures already placed upon manufacturers by the Brexit aftermath and the now-delayed UKCA marking. If the UK is to make sufficient progress towards these targets, then more attention needs to be paid to helping the manufacturing sector to tackle the challenge of keeping the UK economy both competitive and green.

According to IBISWorld, the UK manufacturing sector is ranked 12th for business growth over the past five years, however it not only requires support in the area of carbon cleansing, but even more in other aspects that will champion the UK economy.

Smart factories and Industry 4.0 technologies are a sure-fire way to boost productivity and keep costs low. But there are other areas where the government can focus on to help manufacturers.

One of these is the familiar skills gap. Without help to upgrade the skills of our existing and future workforce, the UK will not be able to implement newer technologies to the best of its ability.

In 2020 Gambica was proud to support the Manufacturing Commission’s Level Up Industry report, which highlighted the importance of manufacturing to the UK and how it has a key role to play in a sustainable and inclusive economy. The report laid out areas of influence – which emerged from round-table discussions with industry experts – that the government could target. The list, which was not exhaustive, included skills, growth, funding and policy.

More than a year on, the UK manufacturing industry is still striving for excellence through support schemes, Catapults and collaboration between academia and industry.

The pandemic is not yet over, and neither are the repercussions of the UK’s exit from Europe. Both have had major impact on our industry. But my article last month demonstrated how manufacturers and academia can unite to help advocate the UK as a manufacturing superpower. We cannot let this disruption hinder our progress towards net-zero and excelling through the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

New packaging taxes and the shift to UK safety rules are adding to the pressures on manufacturers. Gambica members would appreciate added support, extended deadlines and better funding, which would really help a sector that makes up almost 9% of UK gross domestic product. It is evident that the UK has the capacity to achieve greatness. We are predominately a service-based economy, but manufacturing represents a reasonable percentage of GDP and could be much more, given the chance and support.

I’ve outlined a few areas of that we could target to boost UK economic activity. With the goal of carbon neutrality, and working towards the concept of a circular economy, there is a long way to go. But what is certain, is that the UK manufacturing sector will be able to achieve more if it is given the support it needs in the areas such as skills, funding and policy. We need to pay close attention to areas that are easier to develop now, rather than further down the line.