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UK manufacturers `need to move to high value`
Published:  16 February, 2008

Ian Gray, the newly appointed chief executive of the Technology Strategy Board, has warned that UK manufacturers are finding it increasingly difficult to compete globally in mass manufacturing or on a pure cost basis. Although traditional approaches such as improving production processes and enhancing efficiency are still essential, they will not be enough to maintain a long-term and sustainable competitive advantage for the UK in manufacturing, he cautioned in a recent speech in London.

For UK manufacturing to compete, it will need both good practice and high value – high enough to outweigh the cost side of the equation – Gray argued. The manufacturing sector must therefore accelerate its move towards high-value products, processes and services

Ian Gray

Gray (above) outlined his new organisation’s strategy for promoting innovation in the manufacturing sector. The TSB recognises that products and production processes are still key, he said, but that there is also a strong move into services and systems integration.

Gray revealed that the TSB will use a range of tools to help industry to find new ways to add value. These include:
º  investing in r&d;
º  supporting feasibility studies, fast-track projects and demonstrators;
º  stimulating the transfer of research from centres of UK academic excellence into industry;
º  investing in schemes such as Knowledge Transfer Partnerships; and
º  listening to industry.

The UK manufacturing sector is changing, Gray concluded, but that change must not be mistaken for decline. The sector still accounts for more than 25% of UK GDP. Accelerating innovation and adding value – with the support of organisations such as the TSB – can, he argued, ensure that the sector not only maintains its position but finds new ways to lead the world in manufacturing

The Technology Strategy Board is a business-led body established by the Government to promote and support research into – and development and exploitation of – technology and innovation for the benefit of UK businesses. Gray, who became the Board’s chief executive last November, is an engineer who was previously managing director of Airbus UK.

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