Perhaps it’s time to start making a change to our culture?

Lesley Batchelor comments on the newest All Party Parliamentary Manufacturing Group Report

This is a great report, which carries an insightful message to manufacturing industry and the government however as an international marketing person there is a lovely comment in the foreword that hits the nerve that runs through this country at the moment. The British culture is the root of this and until we resign ourselves to the loss of the empire the better. Ready-made markets are the domain of highly innovative ideas or luck. Many people lament the growth of Germany. Positive words about how successful Germany was at providing finance for example, to its medium sized manufacturers, or training new recruits to industry were met with a sigh and the phrase ‘but of course that would never work in Britain. It’s just not in our culture to do that!’

Perhaps its time to start making a change to our culture?

Recommendation 1
The Government should lead a cross-party initiative, in consultation with industry, to establish a long-term fiscal framework to support investment. All party manifestos should contain a commitment to a broadly comparable fiscal framework for investment for ten years from 2015.

Looking at our contemporaries in the world it becomes obvious that an integrated policy on international trade is going to produce a lot more benefit for business than a piecemeal approach. A cross party commitment to a 20 year strategy would guarantee a structured approach to international trade too – not a constant search for ‘quick fixes’ The Institute’s commitment to embedding international trade into the psyche of young people will be greatly enhanced if the government understood the need to show our young people that goods don’t simply come from shops.

Fiscal issues – always important, need fiscal incentives for exporters – with the growing understanding in government that it takes time to develop a new market and a lot of ‘up front’ costs isn’t it time that we recognise this as an investment, as we do design and development, and allow the costs to be offset against tax until the first sales come through?

Recommendation 2
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills should restructure its civil service manufacturing team – a ‘grid’ approach. Vertical teams to support and coordinate supply chain sectors and ensure growth and stability of OEMs, and horizontal teams focused on size of company, rather than sector.

Recommendation 3
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills should work with the Cabinet Office to develop a more user-centred method for developing policy, particularly around business support, learning from the success of the behavioural insights team and the Government Digital Service.

Break down Greek temple / silo based structure of civil service? While the Institute prides itself on a good relationship with BIS & UKTI it is not unusual to hear that businesses are employing a fulltime liaison with these organisations to help ensure continuity. Should they be able to account manage the private sector partners and save us all time and extensive meetings by sharing information and working for business not the other way around?

Recommendation 4
The cabinet Office should coordinate, with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, pilot projects to look at take-up of business support policies, in advance of the full roll-out of the Business Bank.

Recommendation 5
Government should forge closer relationships with a greater number of trade associations in the manufacturing sector, particularly those with a strong core of SME members, in the initial design of policy programmes, and subsequently in marketing programmes to their members.

Recommendation 6
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills should collaborate with industry on a national campaign for automation, with a focus on myth-busting, making the case for automation and job creation.
……..with the addition of exporting we agree.

Recommendation 7
UKTI should be more targeted in its approach, and collaborate with existing bodies to promote export training where appropriate

Let’s take this a stage before training and suggest that UKTI should work to increase the awareness of the need to build competence and develop skills in this specialist area. With government support it should become more than training but a vital skill needed to enter new markets. Professionalism in International Trade should be the cornerstone of any strategy to pull UK PLC out of this recession.

Recommendation 8
All parties should commit to protect funding for the Technology Strategy Board, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and Catapult Centres to 2020.

Recommendation 9
Government should work with trade associations to review the impact of competition law on their ability for businesses to collaborate, and clarify the legal position.

Recommendation 10
The Manufacturing Advisory Service should undertake a review of its strategic management advice, looking to expand its remit in this area with more targeted support. It should work with organisations including business schools, trade associations and Chambers of Commerce, and partner with the Design Council and UKTI amongst others, to link strategic business advice to the structural evolution of the business.

It’s great to see a report of this nature, thorough and well thought through, the Institute congratulates the APMG and hopes that the responses it gains from its own survey will be given a fair airing within the powers that be. We all want a stronger better trading position for UK PLC.

Reference : Making Good
A Study of Culture and Competitiveness in UK Manufacturing
A report by the All-Party Parliamentary Manufacturing Group, Dec 2013.