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REPORT: UK manufacturing to be driven by innovation

UK manufacturing executives say that their strategic focus going forward is one that is innovation led, according to a new report

UK manufacturing executives say that their strategic focus going forward is one that is innovation led, supported by attractive UK corporation taxes like the Patent Box, according to the latest KPMG Global Manufacturing Outlook

The report found that nearly half (48 per cent) of UK manufacturers said that their company’s strategic focus is on innovation and that only two per cent felt that UK taxes are a challenge to their business in the next 12 – 24 months.

The survey of manufacturing executives found that encouragingly, half of the UK respondents said that they plan to spend more than six per cent of revenue on research and development and innovation over the next two years, an increase of 21 per cent from what they spent in the past two years. 

With innovations like 3D printing changing manufacturing, product development cycles (from concept to commercialisation) have reduced from years down to a few months. Yet 1-5 years is the time horizon for an innovation roadmap for 64 per cent of UK manufacturers.

Stephen Cooper, head of manufacturing sector at KPMG UK said: “UK manufacturers are keenly aware that innovation will be the key to future growth. 

They also know that timelines are shrinking -the lead time from concept to commercialisation is dropping dramatically for those manufacturers hoping to remain competitive in today’s technology-driven business environment.

The UK has always been viewed as a leader in manufacturing innovation and there are clear signs that this will continue to be the case.

Encouraging tax rates, stable markets and growing investment in new technologies and advanced materials – such as graphene – continue to provide competitive advantages for UK manufacturers.”

Engineering talent in the UK is strong, but the availability of talent remains an issue.

Respondents of the survey highlighted that by partnering with academic institutions (55 per cent) and investing in internal training and apprenticeship programs (52 per cent) is the way they are addressing their personnel shortage.

Commenting on talent availability in the sector, Mr Cooper said: “The tightening access to talent could limit UK manufacturer’s ability to evolve, grow and adopt new technologies. Whilst there is additional effort being made to increase the number of apprenticeships, which can only be good, more must be done to attract young people to become engineers.

Ongoing retention within the manufacturing sector is ever more challenging whilst recruitment of other smart and innovative people, is necessary to drive forward the manufacturing models of tomorrow.”

“These are exciting times for the UK, and manufacturing is evolving rapidly. In the automotive industry for example, ‘connected cars’ offers the UK huge opportunity to develop and commercialise new technologies. This type of activity, in turn, will attract new talent, new investment and new technologies to the wider UK manufacturing sector”, concluded Mr Cooper.

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