Vince Cable has recently written a letter to David Cameron and Nick Clegg urging the coalition government to come up with a plan for the UK’s industrial future and stated “we can’t predict the economic cycles and market-driven competitive forces of the future. But we can think a decade or two ahead”. Mr Cable also wants the government to develop a strategic partnership with the advanced manufacturing sector and to explore issues around finance and skills to ensure that Britain’s digital and creative industries can throw up the next Google or Intel. We couldn’t agree more.
Anecdotal evidence offered to us by members has this week led to the idea to invite entrepreneurs to Intellect’s EMD Forum meetings. There are plenty of start-up companies out there that have managed to build a working prototype and are now looking for manufacturing partners and/or funding to commercialise their creations. Intellect has links with potential investors but it’s hard for startups to convince financial backers with no track record. The printed/plastic electronics community knows that all too well, as many fledging companies are still struggling to sell their ideas. It’s the classic chicken-and-egg situation whereby potential investors want to see evidence of initial revenues coming in and startup companies need cash to scale up production and convince potential customers they can support volumes. Manufacturing is a capital-intensive business where things can’t happen in a bedroom or a garage. That’s why the “catapult or TIC model” has finally been introduced in the UK – only through sharing equipment and R&D risks advanced manufacturers can innovate and grow. As a result, Intellect is getting close to relevant technology centres and universities to ensure members take full advantage of collaborations and joint projects.
The idea to start looking further than next elections makes sense to UK plc as industry needs certainty, especially technology companies which are increasingly finding difficult to predict the year ahead. We need to act now to reap the benefits in 20 years time as Germany did with the Fraunhofer Society (created 40 years ago) and Asian countries are doing today in certain key technologies. Will the government provide a vision for 2030? We at Intellect are voicing members’ views with campaigns such as our work on growth and automation. The next budget will give this government a chance to show industry the UK is willing to regain global visibility in advanced manufacturing.