Drives and Controls Magazine

Siemens boss calls for the government to back manufacturers

12 January, 2011

Robin Phillips, financial director at Siemens Industry UK Group, has called on the Government to help revive the UK manufacturing sector as it faces up to a challenging future. Speaking recently at a gathering of manufacturing and engineering companies at a Siemens user conference in York, Phillips urged the Government to continue the previous political administration’s objective of “rebalancing” the UK economy.

“With manufacturing accounting for 13% of UK GDP, it will be interesting to see what the present Government means when it talks about the aim of re-balancing the economy away from the dominant financial and service industries,” he said.

“There are a number of key challenges that face the manufacturing and engineering community,” Philips (above) continued. “Though they may overlap, nonetheless each one will be crucial. They include the need to address the issue of a potential shortage of engineers in the years to come and the requirement both to up-skill the current workforce as well as replacing the skills of an engineering generation that will retire over the next couple of decades. We need to deliver 600,000 engineering apprenticeships over the next 10 years, as well as vastly increasing the numbers of current engineering students.
“We will see only 5% of UK students taking a university engineering course this year,” Philips told the meeting. “In comparison, China and the USA develop significantly more engineering graduates on an annual basis to ensure an engineering skills vacuum does not develop. Together, the Government and the business community need to harness their thoughts to encourage schoolchildren to see the merits of ‘making things’, and to view engineering as a rewarding and stimulating career choice.”

He suggested that the government should review the current UK tax and regulatory regimes as they apply to innovative manufacturing businesses. “Perhaps thought needs to be given to tax incentives for SMEs, as well as simplifying the legislative environment in which we expect companies to operate?”
Finally, Phillips called on the banks to support innovative companies that will fuel future economic growth and create jobs in the UK. “The banks should show support to manufacturers of all sizes, particularly SMEs,” he said, “as their assistance and encouragement will help drive the ambition and innovation of the UK’s manufacturing base as it competes on a global stage against the traditional powerhouses – as well as the new emerging markets.”