The opportunity and the threat
It would be easy to conclude, given the current success of many UK based advanced manufacturing companies, that the sector’s contribution to a sustainable recovery here is secure. It is not.
Much progress has been made, but the sector has reached a crucial point in its evolution. What we do now will make the difference between long-term success and marginalisation. So I am particularly grateful to Ed Balls and Chuka Umunna for inviting me to undertake this independent review. I hope it will be influential with all the political parties, within government and industry, and in public debate more widely.
If we build on our success, and respond with determination to the challenges I lay out in this report – on productivity, costs, innovation, skills, funding and the governance of industrial policy – then the sector will play a major role in growing and rebalancing the UK economy in the long run.
If we become complacent, and take our current progress for granted, we will miss a once in a generation opportunity to compete and succeed in one of the world's most competitive sectors. We must focus ruthlessly on creating a globally competitive investment environment here in the UK.
My whole working career has been spent in the UK based automotive sector, including under European, US, and now Indian company ownership. From my first export assignment in Germany in the 1980s, through subsequent roles involving over 50 other countries, I have witnessed the speed with which other economies around the world have transformed their manufacturing capabilities.
In most cases it has been because their successive governments have placed the sector at the forefront of national economic strategy. So it should be no surprise that my key challenge in this report is for politicians and policy makers to put at the heart of their thinking the global context in which the advanced manufacturing sector operates.
I have deliberately taken a business perspective, with challenging insights provided by my Expert Panel and by many other organisations and individuals. The recommendations are also challenging, not only for politicians and policy makers, but also for other stakeholders including the business community. I firmly believe that radical, determined, and most importantly sustained action is required to secure the prize: a vibrant, world-class advanced manufacturing sector that helps the whole UK economy thrive in the long term.
Finally, I’d like to record my immense gratitude to Richard Brooks in his role as my Secretariat throughout the development of this report.