[an error occurred while processing this directive][an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive]
Lord Sainsbury of Turville
Launch of Innovative Manufacturing Research Centres
|(Click picture for biography)|
I am most grateful to the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council for inviting me here today to launch the creation of 12 new Innovative Manufacturing Research Centres.
I believe this launch event marks an important and most welcome development in terms of improving the competitiveness of UK manufacturing industry. There are huge opportunities to increase the productivity of UK manufacturing industry and there has never been a more important moment for doing so.
The concept of the Innovative Manufacturing Research Centres has come about following a reappraisal by EPSRC of its Innovative Manufacturing Programme. I should like to say straightaway that I applaud the strategy that EPSRC has now developed to concentrate the Innovative Manufacturing Programme budget in a fewer number of areas with the aim of producing a much greater impact.
Up to now, the Innovative Manufacturing Programme has offered support widely to the research community and as many as 500 grants have been awarded across a great number of universities. There was a feeling that this was spreading the available resources too thinly and that more focus was desirable.
Now, with the creation of the Innovative Manufacturing Research Centres the budget available will be concentrated in fewer places. As a consequence we hope we will see stronger industrial links develop. Additionally, we hope to be able to see more clearly the impact of our significant support for manufacturing engineering research. We need to achieve a good return on the EPSRC investment, and indeed any additional industry investment, that is made.
The 12 Research Centres chosen in the first stage of the new programme cover between them, all mainstream manufacturing activities such as the aerospace, defence and automotive industries as well as construction, and I hope you, like me, find their creation an exciting development.A key aspect of the new centres is the recognised need for strong collaboration with industry, and with other Research Centres. All 12 Research Centres will have target figures for third party funding in addition to the EPSRC grant. EPSRC are committing funding of about £60m to the new Research Centres over a period of 5 years and will expect by the end of year 5 that third party funding will add an additional 75%, amounting to £45m. This collaboration will ensure that Research Centres do not become remote from the industry they are trying to assist as well, of course, as increasing the overall funding available. Of importance also is the plan to foster co-operation between Centres both in general terms and in specific sectors where they can compare current activities and learn from each other.
The end result over the next five years following today's launch is likely to be an injection of around £100m in improving the performance of UK manufacturing. And with the increased focus and strategic coverage of the new programme we have high hopes for what it might achieve.
Too many people today associate manufacturing with mature industries of the past. But in many industries of the future where this country is most successful there is a major manufacturing element. Obvious examples are aerospace, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and the motorsport industry.
The Innovative Manufacturing Research Centres will also help support these key sectors. For example, aerospace is well covered by the 12 Research Centres.
This is one of the great industrial success stories of this country and is an excellent example of what the Government wants to see in our drive for a knowledge intensive, high productivity economy. The aerospace industry already has an incredibly impressive record of R&D investment. But it knows that no successful industry can stand still and we hope to see much fruitful collaborations between the industry and those Research Centres covering aerospace research.
The Innovative Manufacturing Research Centres will also complement a number of other Government initiatives.
The Manufacturing Advisory Service (M.A.S), for example, which is being developed by my Department in partnership with the Regional Development Agencies and the Welsh Development Agency, is also designed to help raise the productivity of UK manufacturers. We are modelling this in part on a US programme which greatly impressed me during one of my visits to the US. The M.A.S. will address the needs of UK manufacturers, particularly SMEs, by providing practical hands-on assistance from experts to enable them continuously to adapt new methods and technologies, a process which is essential if they are to compete against low wage developing countries.
The M.A.S. involves establishing a Regional Centre for Manufacturing Excellence in each of the English Regions and Wales which will provide regional delivery of the service and practical hands-on advice. The first of these Regional Centres were announced in the South East and North West in October this year. A further major component of the M.A.S. is the creation of a National Network of Centres of Expertise in Manufacturing. The new Research Centres are expected to become important nodes on this national network and will be accessible through the M.A.S. website to be launched in Spring 2002 , thus reinforcing the Research Centres' ability to reach out to business.
The M.A.S. will advise companies on the wide range of technology, operational and manufacturing best practice issues and be delivered by the Regional Centres working in co-operation with Business Links. I am extremely pleased that EPSRC and DTI are co-operating closely on this, and that the new Innovative Manufacturing Research Centres will make an important contribution to the M.A.S.
The Government does not believe in picking winners or interfering in the corporate strategies of individual companies, but we do believe that we have a responsibility to create the best possible environment for industry to grow and innovate. This means above all creating a stable macro-economic framework. It also means funding properly our world-class science and engineering base which makes possible the type of programme which we are launching today.
Following the increase the Government made in 1998 to the science budget, the year 2000 spending review added a further £725 m over 3 years. This means that the science budget will be increasing over the current 3 year period by 7% pa in real terms.
The Government also needs to provide the incentives and mechanisms to turn that science and technology base into new products and processes. We have, therefore, established a Higher Education Innovation fund of £140m over 3 years as a third stream of funding to universities for knowledge transfer, alongside the funds they receive for research and teaching. We have created the highly successful University Challenge scheme to provide universities with seedcorn money, and Science Enterprise Centres to give young engineers and scientists the opportunity to acquire entrepreneurial skills. We have set up Regional Innovation Funds of £50m a year to enable Regional Development Agencies to support clusters and incubators, and we have extended the number of Faraday Partnerships from 4 to 18, with many of the new Faradays being in areas of importance to manufacturing industry such as plastics, technical textiles and automotive and aerospace materials.
Furthermore, a new R&D tax credit for small companies was introduced in April this year. We have also recently consulted about a new tax credit aimed at boosting R&D and innovation in larger companies and the Chancellor will announce our plans in the 2001 Pre-Budget Report. I think these steps show the value this government places on R&D and how serious we are about encouraging industry to invest more.
There are plenty of opportunities for UK manufacturing companies to grow and move into higher value-added sectors, but they will only be able to do so if they mobilise the knowledge and skills of our scientists and engineers and the creativity of the whole workforce. It won't be easy, and it won't be easy in today's economic climate, but I believe that the Innovative Manufacturing Centre can play a significant role in helping UK manufacturing industry to innovate and grow even in the tough conditions they face today. I applaud the EPSRC for setting them up and wish them every success in the challenging task they face.
(the following are available from the archive)