The UK is historically one of the world leaders with regards to engineering innovation and design. The bicycle was the brain child of James Starley, Thomas Edison enlightened the world with the first electric light bulb and Isambard Kingdom Brunel revolutionised handmade in Germany modern day transport and engineering with designs of pioneering steamships and large scale civil projects. Manufacturing and Engineering is part of what makes Britain Great.
Unfortunately, recently it appears that this creativity has suffered a decline and with it the distinct possibility that the UK will become a ‘service nation’, involved with banking, finance and other tedious outsourced 3rd party services.
Yes, manufacturing organisations need to remain competitive to survive and so need to outsource production or relocate to low cost countries such as Asia, Eastern Europe and probably South America once they have their infrastructure organised. However, the epitome of the demise for me is the chance that Aston Martin, a British Institution, are planning on rolling out production of its new model to Austria and are planning production of the re-launch of the classic Lagonda outside of the UK also.
So, is it just the high cost of production that’s driving engineering and manufacturing out of the UK, or is there other external factors influencing this shift?
UK universities have seen a considerable downturn in the uptake of Engineering and Manufacturing related courses in the last decade, these courses are no longer perceived to be a la mode. This point has been acutely observed by Sir John Dyson, who has plans for a specialist engineering school in the UK. He has raised the valid point that if the UK made a concerted effort to invest at grass roots level then we could be once again an international leader in our field, similar to the recent improved successes of the UK Olympic team. The need to invest early in our upcoming sports stars was recognised in the early 90’s, the fruition of which was evident at the Beijing Olympics. Instead Manufacturing and Engineering is still impeded by bureaucracy and red tape in Government, they have the resource and influence to revive the attraction in manufacturing and engineering by working in partnership with industry leaders.
I personally believe that the UK is still in the lead pack but has space for movement up the rankings. Engineering Innovation and Manufacturing Excellence is alive and well in the UK, the UK Patent Office is logging record high patent applications and you only have to look at the industry leaders such as BAE, The Weir Group and The Halma Group to see that we are certainly in the game.