Wednesday, October 30, 2013

News: The future of manufacturing

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Businesses and government must adapt to ensure manufacturing continues to play a powerful role in the UK economy, or they risk being left behind international competitors, according to a new report published today.

"The Future of Manufacturing: A new era of opportunity and challenge for the UK" published by Foresight in the Government Office for Science, states that manufacturing is set to enter a dynamic new phase, driven by rapid changes in technology, new ways of doing business, and potential volatility around the price and availability of resources.

The report shows manufacturing currently makes significant contributions to the economy, accounting for over 10% of the UK's gross value and employing around 2.5 million people. It accounts for more than half of the UK's exports (53%) and around 3 quarters of business research and development (72%).

In addition, the report emphasises that economies with strong, export-led manufacturing sectors typically recover from recessions more quickly than those countries without equivalent sectors.

It also highlights what the manufacturing sector will look like in 2050, following technological advances such as 3D printing, a greater exploitation of the service side of manufacturing, the need for a highly skilled workforce as the current workforce retires and the more efficient use of materials and energy.

The report urges government to build on existing initiatives, for example by scaling up funding for the High Value Manufacturing Catapult Centre, the UK's key technology and innovation body for manufacturing, to make it even more accessible to small businesses and to enhance the role it plays in connecting academic expertise to industry.

Based on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham, the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing and the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (Nuclear AMRC) are lead partners in the High Value Manufacturing Catapult.

Professor Keith Ridgway CBE, executive dean of the AMRC contributed to the report with input into an evidence paper on what the factory of the future will look like. Professor Steve Fothergill & Dr Tony Gore at Sheffield Hallam University provided evidence on the employment implications of the shift to high-value manufacturing in the UK from the high employment manufacturing seen in the past.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: "Britain has a proud manufacturing tradition and the government wants to ensure the sector stays ahead of the curve, leading global innovation and developing, once again, a worldwide appetite for British-made goods. The manufacturing sector is crucial to building a stronger economy – supporting 2.5 million jobs, over half of our exports and about three quarters of research and development. I don’t share the fatalistic view that it will inevitably decline; rather the reverse."

Sir Richard Lapthorne CBE, Chair of the Project Lead Expert Group, added:"Manufacturing in 2050 will look very different from today and will be largely unrecognisable from 30 years ago.

"Successful firms will be highly adaptable, capable of regularly reconfiguring their physical and intellectual infrastructures, exploiting strong international linkages, and adapting their business models.

"The implications for industry and government are substantial - the UK will need to introduce radical changes and adapt its behaviours to ensure that it is not left behind."

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