Is investment in innovation and research the key to keeping UK manufacturing businesses at the top of a global market?
Do manufacturers have the support they need to export?
A recent roundtable discussion hosted by NatWest and EEF explored the issues faced by some manufacturing SMEs in Sheffield and South Yorkshire.
Manufacturing accounts for 72 per cent of the UK economy’s total spending on research and development but the amount the UK spends is lower than many of our competitors.
What challenges do manufacturers face in bringing new ideas to the market?
Rob Neill, manufacturing manager at Magnomatics in Sheffield, said: “I think one of the biggest issues we face is the commercialisation of products that we develop.
“We have a lot of exciting and innovative products but it is difficult to put them in a production situation. We need to get some of our new products into the market to see if customers are interested but we struggle with having the capacity to do so.”
Steve Wainwright, advanced engineering and manufacturing sector growth manager at Creative Sheffield, said: “I previously worked for a large German automotive firm and they were investing between six and eight per cent of sales into R&D.
“They had a long term view of the business which I think is part of the German business culture which we don’t have in the UK. That focus has led to sustainable success for German firms, and it is something we could do with more of here in the UK.”
Lee Hopley, chief economist at EEF, said: “Long term plans for innovation are a focus of many companies but the innovation journey is tough for firms. I think we have a lot of strength across our manufacturing businesses and their investment in modern machinery, R&D and exporting can help the economy to grow.”