Manufacturers 'need revamped industrial strategy'

What specifically should the UK government do to help the manufacturing sector thrive in a post-coronavirus, post-Brexit world?

Wind turbines and solar panels
The UK government should redesign its industrial strategy to help the manufacturing sector overcome problems caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a report on Monday.The report, ‘Responding, Re-setting and Re-inventing UK Manufacturing Post-Covid’, says it could take manufacturing until 2022 to return to its pre-pandemic pace of growth.

A new digital, green and more sustainable UK economy could emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic

However, the report, compiled by the manufacturers' organisation Make UK and Santander bank, forecasts the sector will be at the forefront of helping the UK meet its net zero carbon target through a mixture of investment in green, sustainable processes and by maximising the use of digital technologies.But this, it adds, can only happen through a re-purposed industrial strategy involving a partnership with government and other stakeholders - one that recognises the key value of the sector to the future of the economy and all regions of the nation, according to Make UK.“A new digital, greener and more sustainable economy will emerge from this with an opportunity to catapult manufacturing, science and engineering once again to centre stage in the UK. Industry stands ready to work with government to produce a new industrial vision which will benefit all regions of the UK,” said Stephen Phipson, chief executive of Make UK.

The UK regions and and economic sectors will recover at different speeds

The report said that different parts of the economy, as well as different parts of the country, would recover from the pandemic at different speeds "with export demands, consumer tastes, and business models changing to the ‘new normal’.”It added, “This is why it is vital for government to boost economic confidence and deliver shared prosperity, and for manufacturers to implement best practice and build resilience.”

Manufacturers must embrace technological change to thrive post-coronavirus and for when the UK leaves the EU

Paul Brooks, head of manufacturing at Santander, said new overseas markets would be crucial to diversify and minimise over-reliance on a single export market for manufactured products from the UK.The report stressed that manufacturers must embrace technological change to prepare themselves not just for the new, post-coronavirus international trading environment, but also the fact they will be operating outside the European Union from the end of the year."This will help them take advantage of new markets and trading opportunities, possibly without having any physical presence on the ground," said Make UK.In particular, the report called on companies to recognise the need for digital skills that could support the adoption of technology and to rethink existing systems and processes, especially with the use of green and sustainable technologies.According to Make UK this will require the skills to support a digital transformation "which must now be a national strategic priority with the creation of a National Skills Task Force".The report also calls on the government to encourage manufacturers to lead the green revolution by making grant schemes simpler and more accessible for SMEs so that more are encouraged to invest in environmentally-friendly solutions.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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