Funds pledged to boost UK manufacturing competitiveness

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Industry Manufacturing

The UK’s pledge of ₤150m (c €186.8m) in mid-term support to help the manufacturing sector deal with new challenges and global trends has been welcomed by the food industry which, nonetheless, says it is ‘not standing still’.

The support package is contained in a strategy package called New Challenges, New Opportunities​, which was published by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform yesterday.

The department says it “recognises these are demanding times and is committed to doing all it can to help manufacturers get through them”.​ Current challenges include the global economic climate and downturn in the manufacturing sector in general.

Development of a low carbon economy, supporting skills, realising overseas opportunities, and improving the perceptions and understanding of manufacturing, are all cited as longer term goals.

Melanie Leech, director general of the UK’s Food and Drink Federation, the trade body for food manufacturers, welcomed the government’s recognition of the importance of manufacturing to the economy.

Manufacturing adds some ​£150 bn (c €186.8 bn) a year to national GDP, and according to Leech food and drink makes up the largest slice of this, with a turnover of around £75 bn (€93.4 bn) and employee headcount of almost 470,000 people.

“It is clearly important for UK manufacturers to seek out new directions, technologies and markets – but Government must also recognise, support and foster the achievements of existing well-established manufacturing sectors such as ours,”​ said Leech.

Overall, the UK’s skill’s secretary John Denham said the strategy sees the need to support innovation by maintaining a world-class research and development infrastructure.

But of food, Leech said: “We are not standing still – the UK food and drink industry leads the world in innovation, through product reformulation and new product development catering for changing consumer demands.”

Nurturing the workers

Another particular focus is on attracting skilled workers at all levels.

Business secretary John Hutton said: “For many years the [wider manufacturing] industry’s success has suffered from a lack of public recognition, and it is time we redressed this balance. We must attract more talented young people – the lifeblood of future success – into the industry and ensure that this talent is nurtured and developed.”

Here, Leech agreed there is a core need in the food industry.

“Our industry, like others, faces a challenge in attracting skilled workers at all levels,” ​she said Leech. “Changing perceptions of manufacturing as a career destination will be as important to its success as cutting red tape.”

The government is now creating 1500 new apprenticeships in the manufacturing sector – in addition to 9000 new places already announced this year. Larger manufacturers will also be able to put in bids to train additional apprenticeships, for themselves and for their supply chains.

The full publication of the new UK strategy is available online​.

Related topics Market Trends

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