This week marks 5 weeks since I began at EEF. Here are a few things that I've learned so far.
The manufacturing sector is more modern and evolutionary than I thought
I know, I know. Obviously I knew that manufacturing had evolved past the 2nd Industrial revolution, but what I didn't know was the broader value chain that it is, encompassing all processes from research and development, product and service development, and consumption, right back to reuse remanufacturing, recycling and recovery.
That there is a 4th Industrial Revolution taking place, and it is already changing the sector
The 4th industrial revolution is in many ways a significantly enhanced version of the 3rd industrial revolution which took place from the 1970s onwards and involved the development and use of digital technologies, robots and computers. Manufacturing is undergoing a transformation into the 4th industrial revolution which will see greater integration of physical production with internet enabled technologies that will fundamentally change the sector. The core components are:
- The Industrial Internet of Things - machines and other technologies that collect, share and act on data between themselves
- Big Data (the capture of data on everything) and real time analysis of that data by machines and systems into information and resources
- Secure and reliable digital infrastructure to connect it all up.
Manufacturers clearly see the importance of 4IR, with 2016 data showing that 80% of manufacturers say the fourth industrial revolution will be a business reality by 2025 and 62% of firms plan to invest more in internet connected capital equipment in the next 5 years.
Manufacturing is at the forefront of innovation in the UK...
The UK Innovation Survey published by BEIS showed that despite levels of innovation decreasing in most sectors, the manufacture of electrical and optical equipment topped the list for most innovation active sector. This continued the trend from 2015, 2013 and 2011, and was closely followed by the manufacture of transport equipment. Our research has shown that innovation is key to manufacturers’ success at home and in overseas markets, so this is positive news!
...and has been the most successful sector in receiving funding from the ISCF
Manufacturing and materials has been the most successful sector so far in receiving funding from the government's Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, with 307 projects funded through the scheme between its start date in 2017 and 1 April 2018. Research shows that grants, loans and subsidies can have a positive impact on the amount that firms spend on R&D, and that patents and self-reported innovation statistics suggest increased levels innovation, so this could be even more good news for the sector!
The future of EU R&D frameworks is likely to have a big impact on UK manufacturing, even after we leave the Union
Although the UK will be leaving the European Union in March 2019, government, industry and academics are rightly calling for a decision to be reached quickly on how the UK will participate in European research and innovation programmes. The UK has traditionally received around 15% of Framework Programme funds from the incumbent Horizon 2020 programme, a large proportion of which was accessed by SME manufacturers. UK manufacturers will still need to be able to collaborate internationally to stay competitive.