Manufacturing in developing countries will dwarf the UK's industry unless action is taken to stimulate growth, warns the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. The UK's manufacturing output slipped from sixth to ninth place in the global rankings recently. The country was overtaken by Brazil, South Korea and France, and now ranks just above India.
“To ensure we remain within the top 10, the UK needs to reinvigorate and exploit its manufacturing potential. No nation in the top 10 has maintained its position as a leading economy solely on the basis of its financial or service sectors,” said the IMechE in a report entitled UK Manufacturing in 2012.
Over the past 30 years the world's output of manufactured goods has trebled to $8.2 trillion. Between 1984 and 2009 the UK output rose 13% – the lowest growth out of the top 25 global manufacturing nations. Over the same period a disproportionate share of manufacturing growth has occurred in developing countries.
Without a clear national industrial strategy that provides manufacturers and academia with a framework to deliver growth in the sector, there is a risk that the UK will slip further down the league table, according to the report.
Philippa Oldham, head of manufacturing at the IMechE, said: “Just a 10% rise in UK manufacturing exports and corresponding drop in imports could bring an extra £45 billion into the economy – spearheading the country’s economic recovery. But in order to do this, government needs to show leadership.
“Government must prioritise the development of a cross-party industrial strategy and improve access to funds in order to give industry direction and confidence to invest in UK manufacturing.”
To help stimulate growth, an industrial bank should be established that can help manufacturers to access funds for investment and offer asset management loans.
In addition, the new High Value Manufacturing Catapult Centre should expand its role across all industrial sectors rather than be restricted to its own research programmes. The centre currently focuses on metals and composites, manufacturing technologies and bio-processing.
Industry, academia and the government need to work together to ensure that there are enough adequately skilled people to foster this growth. Together the trio should support and publicise the work of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, said the report.
Top 10 manufacturing countries:
- South Korea