The UK has a long and rich tradition as a manufacturing nation and this important industry continues to play a vital role in the economy. This was reinforced by Business Secretary Vince Cable when he recently set out the government’s vision for the future of UK industry, with manufacturing taking a central role.
We only need to look at many of the most successful and iconic inventions over the last 25 years to see that they have had key parts made, designed or developed here in the UK. The figures speak for themselves; the UK’s manufacturing sector generates 10 per cent of the UK’s overall wealth and provides 2.5 million jobs.
In advanced engineering, for example, where the UK is internationally renowned for its expertise in automotive, aerospace and composite materials, UK manufacturers continue to make a significant contribution to global developments. The UK supplies more components for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner than any other country outside the United States and provides input into every part of a Formula 1 car.
The government is committed to making the UK the best place to start and grow a business. We are examining some 6,500 substantive regulations via the Red Tape Challenge, and are seeking to abolish or substantially reduce at least 3,000 of these regulations to free up business and support growth.
I am delighted to see too that increasing numbers of companies are setting up both manufacturing and R&D [research and development] facilities, attracted by the UK’s easy access to global markets, a highly trained workforce and welcoming regulatory environment.
Exports act as the lifeblood of manufacturing firms and, for many, the key to sustained growth
Chinese telecoms equipment maker Huawei has announced it is investing £650 million in its design centre for mobile phones. The investment will create 700 new jobs over the next five years. Huawei is also set to spend a further £650 million on procurement in the UK over the next five years.
Indeed, the wealth of world-class supply chain opportunities, particularly in areas such as aerospace (where the UK has the largest market in Europe) and automotive (where the UK is home to global market leaders developing next generation technologies), is seeing an increase of overseas companies doing business in the UK.
Take Nissan, which has chosen the UK to develop Europe’s first mass-produced electric car. Toyota too will manufacture its new hybrid engine for the Auris model in Derbyshire and Honda is investing over £260 million this year into its production plant in Swindon – the company’s largest investment in ten years.
The UK is home to many other major international manufacturing brands, such as BAE Systems, BMW, GKN, ARM and Imagination, with UK advanced manufacturing companies supplying to all of these businesses. It’s these companies and many more that make up another vital contribution from manufacturing to our economy – exports.
Manufacturing makes up over half our total annual exports. For the first time in nearly 40 years, the UK is exporting more vehicles by value than we import. Exports act as the lifeblood of manufacturing firms and, for many, the key to sustained growth. Yet some have concerns about over-stretching resources or investing in activity that has no sure return.
UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) – the government department that helps UK companies to trade overseas and international firms to set up in the UK – is an invaluable resource that businesses can take advantage of regardless of their size or export experience. UKTI can help firms with the practicalities of getting started in a new market, by providing on-the-ground know-how, finding the right people for businesses to talk to and smoothing the path to exports.
With markets around the world looking to attract and grow the high-value activities that are the cornerstone of manufacturing, it has never been more important to promote the spectrum of capabilities we have in the UK.
Our government will continue to strive to create a world-class business environment that ensures manufacturers see the UK as one of the most competitive locations for manufacturing, while providing the right support for UK companies to build on their strengths as innovators of cutting-edge products.
Michael Fallon, MP for Sevenoaks, was appointed Business Minister earlier this month after serving as a senior member of the Treasury Select Committee and deputy chairman of the Conservative Party.