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Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Prime time manufacturing

The Engineer
June 21, 2011

Following Alan Sugar’s now-infamous dig at engineers, the BBC was back on more industry-friendly ground this week with the first episode of “Made In Britain”, a documentary which attempted to debunk the notion that British manufacturing is dead.

This week, the show’s host, Evan Davis, turned his attention to high-value manufacturing, and the sectors of industry where the UK continues to boast world-leading skills and expertise.

It was generally watchable stuff, and although there was nothing much to surprise Engineer readers, it’s certainly plausible that many of the technologies featured - from Mclaren’s MP4-12C sports car to BAE’s Mantis UAV - would confound the expectations of non-specialist viewers convinced that the UK no longer makes anything.

Davis was inevitably stronger on analysis than he was on technology, and his comments on how foreign ownership has helped British carmakers embrace once unthought-of of levels of sophistication provided an intelligent rebuff to the still widely-held notion that foreign ownership is undesirable. Meanwhile, Will Butler-Adams, managing director of Britain’s largest bike manufacturer, Brompton, suggested that China far from being seen as threat to the UK’s manufacturing base should be viewed as an emerging customer.

For all the industry drum banging there were also some pertinent warnings. Despite being the world’s seventh largest manufacturer, Davis explained that the UK’s exports still don’t pay for its imports and that if manufacturing is really going to drive the economy we’re going to need hundreds more examples of the kind of companies featured.
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