Yesterday, a report launched by the Manufacturing Commission, the research arm of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Manufacturing, which is chaired by Lord Bilimoria and supported by the MTA, called for further government action to level up manufacturing at a local and regional level.
In recent months the government has begun explicitly referring to “levelling up” the regions of England, with a focus on devolving power and raising the productivity of the whole country. Manufacturing as a sector is undergoing profound change, with the increasing prevalence of technology and disruptive new techniques changing the way people work and the way things are made. This period of flux does however provide an opportunity for government to get it right first time, by bringing together strong local and national interventions with the technology and skills required to facilitate continued growth.
This report considers five key areas in which government can enable growth in manufacturing, and in so doing can begin a journey towards increasing the productivity of all English regions.
- A long-term national productivity target for industrial growth, supported by a strengthened Industrial Strategy Council, on a statutory footing.
- Strengthened support for cooperation between LEP areas to identify synergies and grow UK supply chains
- Better targeting of the increasing R&D spend to maximise return on investment in the regions of the UK outside of London and the South East
- Enable SMEs to access the technology to improve their productivity and prioritise skills that meet the demands of the sector
- Ensure UKSPF is flexible and can be allocated by local leaders to ensure local and regional demands are met
Effective and joined-up Local Industrial Strategies - sitting within a long-term national framework - offer the basis from which government can respond to these challenges, but this will only be possible if they engage and support employers, work for local economies and adapt to a changing society. To maximise this impact, government will need to think holistically about how local challenges are connected, and how they can be addressed in a way that aligns with the key themes of the wider Industrial Strategy and the challenges facing the country over the next 30 years.