Over the past ten years we have seen what UK manufacturing can achieve. With 2030 on the horizon, we must build on this momentum.
As we put together the High Value Manufacturing Catapult’s annual report, published today, a few figures leapt off the page. In 2020/21 alone, our seven world class centres supported nearly 5,900 industrial partners – more than half of which were SMEs – completing 2,234 commercial projects and a further 261 with academic institutions.
The pandemic obviously made work difficult, but we were able to find novel ways of maintaining momentum within our projects while keeping our people and customers safe. We used digital tools to help implement new factory layouts and working practices that enabled true social distancing.
It’s an approach we also used to good effect in our efforts to assist the NHS in the dash to produce ventilators in the first wave of the pandemic. Virtual reality headsets were key to making sure assembly line workers were trained to the high standards we needed.
These are incredible numbers and magnificent feats of manufacturing – but then I’m still a wide-eyed newbie, having only joined as chief executive in June. More established colleagues have seen the HVM Catapult increase its reach every year since it was established in 2011 spurring the industrial transformation that boosts individual company performance and our national resilience.
And as we mark our 10th anniversary, they can be rightly proud of the growth that has led to HVM Catapult becoming the largest advanced manufacturing research capability in the whole of Europe.
With the foundations in place, our mission over the next decade is to lead the UK’s charge to becoming an industrial superpower once again, overseeing the digital transformation of the economy and reducing our carbon footprint by the megaton.
At the heart of this work will be skills. For too long, the UK had the most wonderful ideas, but lacked the expertise to commercialise them. The HVM Catapult was established to address that gap.
But now we must go further and properly nurture our best manufacturing and research talent. By 2030, we aim to directly or indirectly train and upskill around 200,000 engineers and scientists every year.
In turn, this will support a tenfold increase in inward investment to £350bn. Multinationals will want to invest in the UK’s regions, where our centres and the brains behind our most advanced manufacturing are based.
Manufacturing must play its part by halving its greenhouse gas emissions by the end of this decade
That helps to create a virtuous circle. Supply chains will develop and employment opportunities blossom. The social and economic opportunities created by this regeneration – ‘levelling up’ – mean we can avert a brain drain to London or even abroad. At HVM Catapult, our long-serving experts will have even greater support to do their jobs to the best of their abilities.
The Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Orgreave, South Yorkshire, is an example of what can be achieved. Where there was once an abandoned colliery and coking plant scarred by the industrial disputes of the 1980s, more than 100 companies have built up around our centre in recent years, employing 2,000 highly skilled people.
As the forthcoming COP26 summit in Glasgow reminds us, achieving net zero emissions will touch virtually all the projects we undertake. As a broader industry, manufacturing must play its part by halving its greenhouse gas emissions by the end of this decade and we will assist thousands of companies in reaching this target. Digitising manufacturing processes and developing sustainable new products will be important.
It’s right that we take a little time to celebrate the first 10 years of the HVM Catapult – the team has shown just what it can do. But we know that the opportunities of the next decade are even greater, both in terms of the economy and the environment. It’s going to be quite a journey to 2030.
The High Value Manufacturing Catapult’s Annual Report published today. You can read the report here.
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