Growth Opportunities for Manufacturers Pursuing New Technology

Growth Opportunities for Manufacturers Pursuing New Technology

New research suggests UK manufacturers are reluctant to invest in technology, despite the opportunities it can bring.

The future competitiveness of UK manufacturing’s medium-sized enterprises (MEs) is threatened by hesitancy to embrace new technologies and high-value, linked-up manufacturing. This is according to new research by NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland, 'Future Fit: the road ahead for UK manufacturing'.

While these businesses are well positioned to take advantage of the UK’s strong foundation of academic and research excellence, many report feeling overwhelmed by a future of rapidly-evolving technology.

But Karthik Sundaram, of UK consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, warns: “UK manufacturers can no longer afford to be conservative in their future strategies. They need new technological thinking and collaborations – or they will be left behind.”

There’s no doubt that ME leaders accept this position. More than two thirds (68%) of MEs surveyed believe that technologists will be the most in-demand skill-set by 2050, yet there is little evidence for exploring how to meet these needs.

The disconnect between the desire to innovate and the awareness of tech trends set to shape the industry may be down to MEs being risk-averse to innovation. Research from NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland’s comprehensive report suggests that this could be because manufacturers experience blind spots about the usefulness of some emerging technologies that industry experts identify as key.

For example, 31% see access to nanotechnology and new materials – cited as major areas of global opportunity for UK MEs by industry experts – as means of future-proofing.

An observation by one of the leaders interviewed for the report illustrates the worrying perspective: “We haven’t really needed to innovate. The equipment we use has been making us money since the 1980s so you have to ask: why do we need to change?”

But with costs falling, MEs need to be advised that smart production will allow them to establish a global lead in areas such as connected, driverless cars, and drone technologies where the UK’s regulatory framework give them natural advantages.

Lee Hopley, chief economist at EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, feels that UK manufacturers are often paralysed by a lack of advice and support on which new technology will work best for their business. “UK MEs have not always found it easy to identify the right technological solution for them, and how they implement it, and how they get the most out of it, quickly and profitably,” she says.

“There’s a lot of work to be done to help MEs, using experts to work through their supply chains to make sure that they’re aware which technologies are going to be most appropriate for them.”

For further insight into the future threats and opportunities facing ME manufacturers, read the full report here:

Future Fit: The Road Ahead for UK Manufacturing



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