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So, I like to get out there and see what’s happening in the world. So today it was the northwest Manufacturing Matters conference at the Salford City stadium. A combination of presentations and service providers, it had an overall upbeat message to raise the flag for manufacturing successes and prospects.

“Like a patient who’s been in a car crash  and is emerging from the subsequent coma…”  This was my favourite line of the day cited by Professor John Ashcroft (an economist) commenting on the state of the tentative recovery in the UK’s manufacturing industry. “So before everyone gets carried away, we must take a realistic view of where we are and what the prospects might be.” 

A really interesting message from John, is that, before we all give up on the developed economies and head for the BRICS; there will be very little shift of the balance of GDP even by 2025. For example the US economy is so large and highly dynamic that it will continue to be a presence and that, eventually, the massive EU economy will also right itself.

Of course, some facts and figures:

  • The NW is the largest regional sector in UK manufacturing with a good mix of sectors. 320,000 employees generating £21billion on GVA.
  • Manufacturing is now “only” 11%  of the UK economy, but has been responsible for 1/3rd of the economic recovery.
  • For the first time, the UK now exports more to non-EU countries (though the EU is still a vital export market).
  • UK GDP and manufacturing growth projected to be 2%pa in 2014.

Trends in the needs of UK manufacturing firms include the need for identifying strategies for growth, re-shoring of factories back to the UK, more investment needed (we’re still only at 25% of pre-crisis levels) , a supportive central UK.GOV, and more focus on innovation.  To generate this growth there are 3 things firms are seeking;

  1. new customers in new markets,
  2. new products for the current markets and
  3. developing services into new markets.

In support of all this, firms have indicated their intention to undertake a major focus on product and process innovation over the next several years.

Another economist, Stephen Radley from EEF, reinforced my own view that there is still not a coordinated UK.GOV strategy for growth and that poor central policy is undermining the good.

Overall, it’s clear to me that there is a lot of room for improving to the national support systems, but this, with the messages from several other sources read like things are starting to line up?


Rob Munro

So, what do you think ?

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