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Home > News > Company News > A political manifesto for elec.....

A political manifesto for electronics

  • Author:Ella Cai
  • Release on:2017-06-14
UK electronics stands at a crossroads, as it faces skills shortages, the uncertainties of Brexit and fierce international competition. Political engagement with the sector is crucial to its future. So, as voters went to the polls last week, Electronics Weekly spoke to industry figures about their hopes for the future and their concerns and demands for the new government.

Andrew McQuilken, managing director, Harwin
What is the most important election issue?
The widening skills gap is well documented. New opportunities are opening up, but there are not enough qualified professionals to satisfy the demand. A large proportion of the experienced workforce is heading towards retirement and not enough new talent is coming through training. The UK’s ability to compete on the world stage will be hampered considerably if it can’t get access to a big enough engineering pool to drive innovation.
What would solve that issue?

The government, the enterprise sector and academia all need to work together. Effort must be made to give science and engineering career paths more appeal to school leavers and persuade them to study engineering or science at university. Further investment must be made into apprentice programmes.

What is the international outlook?
The UK has annually received close to €1.5bn of EU funding for education and research.

This has helped us to continue to be inventive in areas like aerospace/defence and automotive technology, which have contributed significantly to the strength of our economy.

Though we remain optimistic about the future, it will be interesting to see how the new government will be able to cover that shortfall post Brexit.
David Phillips - binder UKDavid Phillips, managing director, Binder UK

What is the most important election issue?
Aside from staying in the customs union, tariffs or the ability for wider trade deals outside of the EU one of the major issues is regulation (CE marking) and standards.

What would solve that issue?
The government needs to ensure that the UK either remains within the scope of European norms and CE certification, or that we have a system that mirrors those requirements.

Will the next government act?
I believe that, unfortunately, the electronic and tech sectors will receive only minimal support from the next government. With priority given to the service industries (financial services, insurance and banking etc.) which make up 79% of GDP, followed by pharmaceuticals, automotive, agriculture and energy.

What is the international outlook?
The UK electronics and tech industries have a reputation for world-leading design and innovation. They could be severely damaged in the short term by the fall-out from Brexit. But they are robust, resilient and innovative and in the medium term the industry will recover, the strength of growth depending on the damage caused in the short term.

Do politicians listen on electronics?
Sadly, the electronics and tech sectors are a low priority and any Brexit deal will be based on the wider needs of the economy.
Mullen PaulPaul Mullen, General manager, Anders Electronics

What is the most important election issue?
Ensuring continued investment in innovation and education and maintaining inward investment. R&D tax credits need to continue and we need a seamless trading landscape with Europe.

What would solve that issue?
It’s crucial to be realistic at the start of Brexit negotiations. Immediate replacement of lost European trade with other countries will not happen. In the past tariffs were a dead hand – a barrier that stops the best technologies and solutions being transferred internationally.

Will the next government act?
I’m not confident. The tech sector is too small a part of the UK economy and too diverse to really command the attention of ministers.

What is the international outlook?
We employ some of the most brilliant and creative engineers in the world and I think our industry in the UK has a great future.

Lindsley Ruth, CEO, RS Components

What is the most important election issue?
Britain needs to invest in closing the skills gap in engineering so the UK can effectively compete globally. The concern is that the short-term distraction of Brexit negotiations cannot supersede any focus on investment in engineering.

What would solve that issue?
The government has got to boost innovation by fostering co-operation between schools, businesses, local authorities and investors – it’s really about the ecosystem.

Will the next government act?
It’s too soon to know. Little has been said in any of the manifestos regarding investment in engineering or STEM and it should be a major concern. This is a growth industry but it seems like it’s off the radar for many.

What is the international outlook?
I think that depends on the government, universities and business coming together to address the skills gap. That’s critical and if it doesn’t happen, countries like South Korea, Germany, the US are going to leave the UK way behind.

Do politicians listen on electronics?
Not well. There have been concerns about the engineering skills gap in the UK for a number of years. So the government may be listening, but are they doing anything about it?
No.

Chris ONeill omronChris O’Neill, senior sales manager, N Europe, Omron Electronic Components

What is the most important election issue?
Currency. The only way to grow is to have the pound at the right level against the euro and the dollar. We need to maintain a stable exchange rate against these currencies.

What would solve that issue?
A free trade agreement with Europe is essential. It is must happen and will happen – business communities throughout Europe will press for it.

Will the next government act?
I hope it will continue to support entrepreneurs and create a favourable climate for start‑ups and established businesses.

UK’s five-year international outlook?
Our prospects are brighter now than they have been at any time in the past 15 years. There is more innovation, especially in start-ups with good ideas and ambition. That id the only basis for long term international growth.

Do politicians listen on electronics?
Not well enough. In Germany, the Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers’ Association (ZVEI) meets ministers regularly to talk about what’s happening in Industry 4.0, the internet of things (IoT) and other areas, to formulate a strategy. We need these kinds of meetings in the UK.

Jon Stark Peratech (10)Jon Stark, CEO, Peratech

What is the most important election issue?
To open up foreign investment and collaboration, but Brexit sends the message ‘we want you out’ to talented EU nationals in the UK. Until the government can reconcile these diametrically-opposed policies the industry will suffer – more than other sectors because it attracts some of the best minds, but given the chance to work in a friendlier environment in the EU, who wouldn’t?

What would solve that issue?
Adopting a believable message that the UK will be a better partner outside the EU than inside is the first step; broadcasting clear trade, investment, and development objectives that attract businesses globally, and support sustainable value that UK companies can provide. Moving UKTI under the cabinet-level function (DTI) is a good step, as long as it has the, resources and remit to follow through.

Will the next government act?
It’s hard to know amid all the Brexit noise. The gamesmanship going on adds uncertainty. If prolonged uncertainty affects UK tech we may see an erosion of the sector’s ability to compete.

On the other hand, electronics and tech markets are so aggressive and volatile as it is, we may not see a big difference. UK tech needs routes to mass global commercialisation, and the business strategy from UK tech leaders might be the biggest obstacle.

What is the international outlook?
I’m very optimistic. There is a lot of untapped innovation percolating close to commercialisation in tech sectors. That points to growth and resilience.

Do politicians listen on electronics?
Companies gain some general benefit from the government’s emphasis on tech, but the fundamental need will be in preparing a workforce that can meet the demands of the job market.