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Mon, 19 October 2020

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Building resilience and trust in tough times

Building resilience and trust in tough times

Credit: Unsplash

Prof. Steve Evans, IET Manufacturing Policy Panel | Institution of Engineering and Technology

4 min read Partner content

Recent Government support for business has been unprecedented. Moving forward, there is so much more we can do, as a nation, to rebuild and deliver improved prosperity for the country.

Some strategic industries face tough times ahead. Liquidity is the immediate challenge. While some firms have grown (food manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies among those increasing output throughout the crisis), others (particularly those working in supply chains) have remained profitable yet continue to struggle.

The potential loss of jobs and skills remain as major concerns with the prospect of large-scale redundancies anticipated over the coming months. Yet we have so many challenges and as many opportunities available to us.

Addressing the environmental crisis and the opportunity for net zero. Investing in training and development to help regional economies to ‘level up’. The rise of digital technologies to improve productivity and reduce the impacts of industry on the environment.

Investment by industry, business and government to simultaneously deliver on all these goals is both possible and advantageous now. One way would be through the smart utilisation of displaced engineers who can be offered paid retraining, upskilling and teaching programmes.

A boost in the number of apprenticeships (which we understand may have dropped to as little as 30% of capacity in some parts of the country) through more support for firms willing to take on new recruits (and with positive impacts for further education colleges) would be both welcome and prudent.

This is the manufacturing engineering workforce of the future and one we should be deploying across industries now as firms look to diversify their skills base for greater good, given the fearless and intuitive way in which many young people are able to effortlessly harness technology and innovation.

Funding support to roll-out the recommendations of the ‘Made Smarter’ review to all regions would enable more firms to digitally transform, making factories smarter, cleaner and greener.

The UK leads the world in new forms of forward procurement that reduce climate impacts yet accelerate innovation across UK start-ups. This reduces costs, boosts new sectors and should not be missed.

Government procurement is a positive for our economy, something which can help deliver net zero, levelling up, and good quality jobs. The UK leads the world in new forms of forward procurement that reduce climate impacts yet accelerate innovation across UK start-ups. This reduces costs, boosts new sectors and should not be missed.

UK leadership in research and development is creating leading-edge technologies and delivering award-winning innovation. Economic recovery plans, whether based around place or sector, play to our strengths and our ability to support the best innovations. Great things can happen when we create a culture which embraces a broader range of ideas, concepts or methodologies.

Government support and funding to de-risk such investment, providing incentives in new entrants and new ideas, will enable our country to bring on more, successful businesses, start-ups and spinouts, thereby accelerating the pace of innovation. Some of our biggest challenges will generate some of our greatest opportunities.

Existing, long-standing expertise and answers acquired in one sector can provide solutions to problems encountered in new and completely different areas of the economy. We (at the IET) call this Horizontal Innovation™.

Emerging from the dark days of the pandemic, firms must look to rebuild and reinforce their resilience as a matter of priority, not least because further shocks may not be too far away, whether caused by economic, environmental, cyber, pandemic or other events.

Trust will be an increasingly important commodity as firms look to collaborate and partner with people, they want to do business with, regardless of contracts and legal agreements (as many of these proved to be not worth the paper they were printed on). It’s time for our country to move back into the light.

Click below to listen to the Future of Manufacturing Podcast, with Nadhim Zahawi MP, Darren Jones MP, and Prof. Steve Evans from the IET.

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Engineering a Better World

Can technology deliver a better society? In a new podcast series from the heart of Westminster, The House magazine and the IET discuss with parliamentarians and industry experts how technology and engineering can provide policy solutions to our changing world.

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