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Manufacturing needs more direct state support

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A manifesto has called on the government to place the manufacturing sector at the centre of a better balanced and more diverse UK economy.

Drawn up by the EFF, the manufacturing employers’ organisation, the manifesto argues the case for much greater government intervention and involvement, including the establishment of a new industrial bank.

The EEF said that, although there are some indications across the political spectrum that people recognise action must be taken to equip the UK to meet the strategic challenges that lie ahead and to re-balance the economy following the problems of the financial sector, further progress needs to be made.

The EEF’s strategy aims for a more diverse, agile, innovative and relatively larger manufacturing sector.

According to the manifesto, entitled ‘Manufacturing our Future’, companies entering new and developing markets need a clear signal about the long-term priorities the government has for specific technologies, markets or investments.

The government should also work more closely with business to identify and overcome obstacles to growth such as skills shortages, infrastructure requirements or bottlenecks in the planning system.

And innovation investment from government must be targeted and decisive so that it can deliver a dynamic and forward-looking economy.

Specifically, the EEF wants to see a new industrial bank with funds of between £5 billion and £10 billion to support those firms that struggle to raise investment from the banks or venture capitalists; a £1billion innovation ‘X prize’ for the commercialisation of low carbon technologies; more strategic use of procurement in new and emerging industries; better progress on making the tax system, the regulatory regime and the skills infrastructure more business friendly; and a more clearly defined role for the National Economic Council in coordinating the new economic approach.

Gilbert Toppin, the EEF’s chief executive, said: “Manufacturing must play a bigger role in our economy if we are to meet the challenges facing us over the next decade. It can be a major player in addressing climate change and meeting our demographic and security challenges as well as helping to claw back the twin deficits in the public sector and on trade.

“But this will only happen if our manufacturers show the ambition and make the investments needed to achieve this and the government sets out a framework that gives them the confidence to do it. In particular, the government must set out its priorities for the technologies and markets we need to develop and the steps it will take to help the UK succeed in them.”