Manufacturing is the unsung hero of the Midlands economy, Business Minister Shriti Vadera has said.
She made the comments while launching a series of regional roadshows on the future of UK manufacturing and how the sector can best compete in a global economy.
The Minister said: “It amazes me that, instead of recognising manufacturing as one of the most successful sectors in Britain, it is seen by many as an industry in decline.
“To me it is clear from what’s happening across the Midlands and across the country that UK manufacturing is thriving, and forms an important part of our economy.
“Indeed, it is the unsung success story of our economy.”
She said the facts virtually spoke for themselves.
“We are the world’s sixth largest manufacturer and our productivity has grown by almost 50 per cent since 1997. I am here in Derby to hear how manufacturers think government and business can work together to help this sector remain innovative and competitive in the evolving global marketplace.”
The government announced in November 2007 that it was reviewing its manufacturing strategy aimed at ensuring it was doing all it could to assist UK manufacturing in competing globally and taking advantage of new markets.
Bryan Jackson, chairman of East Midlands Development Agency (EMDA), said events such as the roadshow were vitally important because they enabled government to hear directly from manufacturers in the region about the real issues affecting them and to develop strategies in order to compete globally.
“In my opinion, manufacturing is better placed to meet and beat the challenges it faces today,” he said.
“What we in EMDA are doing, mainly through our Business Link, is providing innovative support programmes to help manufacturers make fundamental step changes in their operational performance and competitiveness – MAS is an excellent example of this.”
The Minister said that the government was already doing its best to support manufacturing by encouraging initiatives such as the Manufacturing Advisory Service, which has helped companies to generate added value of £540 million.
In addition, she said that the R&D Tax Credit, which has supported £16.6 billion worth of research and development expenditure since 2000 was helping.
The UK Science & Research Budget, which is set to increase to £6.2 billion by 2010, has also helped the situation, she added.
The national Technology Programme, which is supporting more than 600 collaborative R&D projects across 40 technology areas was also an important initiative, while the National Skills Academy for Manufacturing, launched in January 2007, was aiming to deliver training courses specially designed by industry for industry, training 40,000 employees a year by 2012.