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Manufacturers: Stronger together
At a recent event, representatives from Britain’s leading manufacturers were joined by expert speakers to discuss the needs of businesses in the sector, as well as the blueprint for an ecosystem of support that could help accelerate growth in domestic and international markets.
While there is no shortage of opportunities for ambitious and international manufacturers in Britain today, the list of challenges is long. From planning for Brexit uncertainty to resolving talent shortages, manufacturers need help to overcome the hurdles standing in the way of growth.
The answer, Irene Graham, chief executive of the Scale-Up Institute told delegates at Santander’s recent Manufacturing Industry Day, is to leverage a broad ecosystem of support. “No single provider can do all of this alone,” she said. “Collaboration is going to be crucial to provide all of the support that is needed; many of these problems are longstanding and pre-date Brexit, but they can be fixed.”
Some support will certainly come from policymakers. The government’s Industrial Strategy, published last year, may not be perfect, but it does set out a blueprint for industrial policy for the first time ever. From initiatives such as an emphasis on patient capital to a more coherent export strategy, it can help ensure the conditions in which manufacturers operate are more favourable.
More broadly, the public sector and the private sector are already working together to promote trade. The Department of International Trade provides substantial resources to businesses with ambitions to internationalise, including leading trade missions to new markets.
But other stakeholders must play their part too. Banks such as Santander can offer not only finance, but also a range of additional support that is just as crucial. Help with identifying and entering new markets, support with seeking and securing new trading relationships, and introductions to new networks of contacts and partners are all part of the jigsaw.
Segmentation will be vital – different manufacturers have different needs according to their industry sub-sector, their size and their aspirations.
John Patsavellas of the Department of Manufacturing at Cranfield University, told the event:
For example, we need a stronger ecosystem for start-ups and growing businesses in manufacturing. Incubators and accelerators used to working with services businesses will provide office accommodation, say, but will they help a young business rent the advanced manufacturing tools it needs?
Seeking support proactively
Nor should manufacturers expect this support simply to land on their doorsteps; the most proactive businesses will seek out the help they need from wherever it is available.
For businesses expanding in new markets, for example, this might mean working with familiar partners.
Stephen Phipson, chief executive of EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, told the event:
If you’re completely new to exporting, focus on the easy steps first. Can you follow your customers into their other markets, perhaps selling to them in those new geographies as a starting point?
Elsewhere, leading manufacturers are forming networks and peer groups through which they can discuss shared opportunities and problems. Often, these networks extend beyond manufacturers themselves to groups such as business schools and universities that offer additional insight and expertise. All experience is valuable, particularly where it is available locally.
The end goal for all these initiatives is that every manufacturer seeking growth should be able to access an ecosystem of support providing the assistance they need for any given opportunity. The help they receive will be tailored, deep and holistic – and it is out there for those businesses wanting to grow.
More about how we help customers in the Manufacturing industry.