The UK needs to relaunch an industrial strategy and stop ‘flip flopping’ on initiatives if it is to avoid falling behind on the global stage, manufacturing bosses have warned.
The call to action, from Make UK, which represents 20,000 manufacturers across the country, said that British businesses risked losing out to international competitors because of the government’s lack of a long-term plan for the industry.
The report said that the government has overseen ‘flip flopping from one initiative to another,’ and called for the creation of a royal commission to develop a long-term, modern industrial strategy to support companies across the UK.
Former Prime Minister Theresa May launched the UK’s industrial strategy in 2017. The initiative focussed on increasing jobs and investment outside London. However, the strategy was scrapped under Boris Johnson, along with a powerful council of business leaders and advisers tasked with monitoring investment in Britain’s hard-pressed regions.
Laimonas Noreika, Co-founder and CEO of FinTech platform HeavyFinance, said: “Manufacturing plays a vital role in job creation, and it is critical to have a detailed industrial strategy in place to spread investment and enable businesses to expand. With businesses feeling more confident, despite high-interest rates and surging inflation, having a clear blueprint for empowering the manufacturing sector will be key to driving economic growth.
Noreika continued, “Many countries around the world are already developing incentives to promote investment in low-carbon, sustainable firms, and it’s crucial that the UK doesn’t fall behind in this area.”
Neh Thaker, co-founder of HedgeFlows said: “Having a clear industrial strategy in place to support the manufacturing industry is essential for enabling businesses to hire, grow and expand internationally. With a dedicated plan to attract investors, the UK will be well positioned as a centre of excellence for fast-growing, high-impact companies.
“Far too many ambitious businesses still lack the financial support they need to enter their next stage of development. Having a refreshed plan and a clear vision will further embolden businesses to take the next step forward,” concluded Thaker.
Khalid Talukder, Co-founder of DKK Partners added: “It’s mind-boggling that the UK is falling behind in such a crucial area, especially when so many of our international competitors are launching detailed action plans to woo investors and turbocharge their manufacturing base. Heavy industry is a dynamic part of our economy, so supporting these companies to trade internationally, hire new staff and upskill the nation should be a top priority for the government.”
Industry expert James Campanini, CEO of VeUP, added, The UK’s manufacturing industry is home to some of the country’s most dynamic and forward-thinking businesses, so having a refreshed industrial strategy in place is the least we can do to support them. The global race to attract investment in high-tech firms shows no sign of slowing. With millions of companies upscaling their cloud investments and skills budgets, a blueprint outlining the industry’s future is key to driving sustainable, long-term economic growth.”
Stephen Phipson, the chief executive of Make UK, said the UK was the only leading nation in the world without a comprehensive, long-term industrial plan. “If we are to not only tackle our regional inequality but also compete on a global stage, we need a national industrial strategy as a matter of urgency,” he added.
Underscoring the push for a renewed industrial strategy, Make UK said about 80% of companies in a survey of 312 manufacturers believed the lack of a plan put their firm at a competitive disadvantage to businesses in other countries. Almost 60% said they thought the government had never had a robust vision for manufacturing, while as many as a quarter said it was the main reason the sector had not grown more quickly over the past decade.