There were no big surprises from the chancellor in his first (and last) Autumn Statement, but he presented a measured plan with the focus on re-establishing long-term stability for the economy. After the shocks of Brexit, and the continuing instability in the economy, talk of long term investment and industrial strategy will be welcome news to many manufacturers.
Manufacturers will welcome the chancellor’s statements on concerns they have long voiced; issues of productivity and international competitiveness, and R&D tax credits. The biggest news in the statement was a significant boost to research and development spending, of the order of billions of pounds, particularly focused on innovative and high-value technologies. The APMG welcome this announcement, and expect this to also be the focus of the coming Industrial Strategy document. Announcements on government investment in digital infrastructure, and pushing Britain to the forefront of 5G technologies, will allow the UK to thrive in the 4th Industrial Revolution. Finally, a doubling of support for exports will hopefully allow manufacturers to continue to reap rewards and grow in international markets.
The chancellor has spoken of a desire to build a ‘high-wage, high-skill economy that will deliver higher living standards’ and without the skilled and highly-trained workforce to staff the factories of tomorrow, manufacturers cannot thrive. Whilst he mentioned training, the chancellor gave no clues on how the government will bridge the potential manufacturing and engineering skills gap.
Dr. George Dibb - Head of Manufacturing, Design & Innovation
APMG Member organisations also gave their views:
Terry Scuoler, Chief Executive of EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation
“The Chancellor has also provided industry with a down payment on a modern industrial strategy. The boost to science and innovation is vital if we are to be at the forefront of the fourth industrial revolution, whilst the doubling of support for exports should grease the wheels for business in growing markets abroad. The Chancellor has also signalled a welcome recognition that our digital network and local roads are not fit for purpose and need major upgrade."
Professor Andy Neely, Head of the Institute for Manufacturing, University of Cambridge
"I listened with interest to the PBR statement from the Chancellor. I particularly welcomed (i) the National Productivity Investment Fund - it is clear we need to address the long term productivity challenges the UK has faced; (ii) the investment in full-fibre broadband and 5G networks - essential as manufacturing sees to digitalise; and (iii) the additional R&D funding - vital in light of the referendum result and the need to ensure the UK’s science base remains competitive."