Education, investment and innovation key to success of UK productivity plan

According to a consultation by Siemens UK & Ireland, manufacturers are calling on business and government to focus on three key areas of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills’ 15-point productivity plan (‘Fixing the foundations: creating a more prosperous nation’) published in July 2015.

The results of Siemens’ report, ‘A Blueprint for the Future of UK Manufacturing’, show that focus on investment in skills & human capital, economic infrastructure and ideas & knowledge should be at the heart of protecting the future success of the nation’s manufacturing industry.

Skills remains a key concern, with 73% of organisations stating that training and educating the next generation of manufacturing workforce was the most important measure they would like to see improve across the country. 86% said the UK still needs a greater focus on science, technology, education and maths (STEM) education at both primary and secondary school levels. There was also a desire for improved funding of and process for employing apprentices.

Greater commitment for investment in infrastructure and digital technologies to improve productivity was also high on the agenda. Manufacturers fed back that there should be targeted investment at strategically important improvement projects, such as the road network and energy infrastructure.This echoes an EEF report analysing the fourth industrial revolution that also identified the need for the UK to bolster its infrastructure to harness a digital leap forward in manufacturing.

Manufacturers believe improved support to enable greater collaboration between education and business is crucial. And, in terms of driving innovation through technology, 78% wanted greater access to funding to invest in R&D and other innovative manufacturing techniques and processes. Nearly half asked for the permanent establishment of R&D tax credits and many called for a reform to business rates to encourage greater investment in plant and equipment.

“UK manufacturing is a critical sector, delivering 11% of national GDP and employing 2.6m people, it is therefore crucial that its future success is protected,” said Brian Holliday, managing director – Digital Factory, Siemens UK & Ireland. “ Recent reports from the EEF have shown that manufacturing is key to solving the UK’s ‘productivity puzzle’, so now is the time for action to build upon the good work already underway, and lay a strong foundation from which our innovative manufacturing sector can compete on a global stage once again.”

The consultation also showed that manufacturers are already committed to investing in new technologies themselves. 91% of manufacturers already deploy automation and control systems to help optimise operational efficiencies and 83% stated a desire to continue to invest in these areas.

"The more investment and tax breaks within this space, the more stability there is for key industries, such as automotive, pharmaceutical and medical device production, which, in turn, will also enhance the performances of UK engineering firms and tier one suppliers into those industry sectors," added Earl Yardley, Director at Industrial Vision Systems. "It's important that the UK manufacturing industry remains competitive and builds on its momentum which has been established in recent years. In order for the manufacturing space to fulfil its key role in taking the UK economy forward, it needs a course of action which avoids piling more costs on employers but will instead support their investment plans for the future."