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UK trade bodies link with Government to boost machinery sector

01 January, 2001

UK trade bodies link with Government to boost machinery sector

The UK Government has joined forces with a group of 14 engineering trade associations in an attempt to boost Britain`s performance in the world machinery market. The partners have launched a five-year initiative focusing, in particular, on the production machinery and tooling sectors where, they say, the UK is being left behind by rivals such as Germany, the US and France.

The DTI has agreed to fund the programme - called com-met 2005 (competitiveness in mechanical engineering and technology) - until 2003, with the trade bodies bearing the costs for a further two years. The bodies involved include the British Fluid Power Association (BFPA), the British Gear Association (BGA), the Machine Tool Technologies Association (MTTA) and the Processing and Packaging Machinery Association (PPMA).

Together, the 14 bodies represent some 2,700, mostly small, companies, employing around 85,000 people and generating a combined turnover of more than £5,500m.

The programme will focus on six key areas which are felt to be crucial to revitalising the sector. These are: e-commerce; research and development; skills and training; international trade; marketing; and statistics.

Preliminary discussions have revealed that the sector`s biggest worries are over information and communications technologies. Although companies are applying new technologies to their production equipment, they have been slower at using it to run their businesses more efficiently. A key element of com-met 2005 will be to promote the effective exploitation of e-commerce.

R&d in this sector is piecemeal, so BGA chief executive Jim Hewitt is leading an initiative to set up a network of experts who will share knowledge and best practice. A Web site will be created to help form research partnerships.

To tackle skills shortages, a working party, led by MTTA director general Simon Brown, will analyse the existing skills base and establish the industry`s needs before offering recommendations to alleviate the shortages.

To boost international trade, a series of promotional visits is planned to promising markets, with the first mission due to go to China in the spring. Neil Percival, director and secretary of the BFPA, is leading a group looking at how data collection and dissemination can be improved to help manufacturers make the right decisions and to react rapidly to changing conditions.

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