It's time to harness Britain’s engineering export potential
As Britain approaches Brexit, the country must wake up to its potential to export word-leading products, goods and services to international markets in order to thrive, argues Mark Curtis, Managing Director of Vision Engineering on the of the UK's leading exporters
The increasing febrile debate around Britain’s planned departure from the European Union (EU) has raised many questions about the country’s ability to prepare for a variety of outcomes, including a potential no deal scenario.
We have heard from a myriad of politicians, activists, think tanks and industry experts about the rights and wrongs of such an outcome, with discussions framed around maintaining a strong economy, with significant border and trade disruptions.
One of the most important issues to have been raised by the spectre of Brexit is the much wider national debate about our country’s potential to seek new trade deals and export to international markets.
Yet for many manufacturing and engineering companies, building a truly efficient and robust mechanism for exporting goods and services to the US and Asia will take several years to achieve.
It is somewhat surprising that in country famous for world-class engineering, from Alexander Graham Bell to Isambard Kingdom Brunel, our companies all too often lack the infrastructure to truly reach new, external markets. Such facts are even more confusing, given the market value attached to such industries.
Recent reports have suggested that engineering generated 23% or 1.23 trillion of the UK’s annual turnover. Employment and job creation remains high; 62% of engineering and technology graduates entered full time employment in the last year, to the graduate average of 56%. For major infrastructure projects, demand remains high.
Data has suggested that 7,200 7,200 engineering and technical workers needed in high speed rail by 2020. Additionally, around 157,000 new jobs are set to be created in the increasingly popular area of big data in manufacturing by 2020. At Vision Engineering, a key secret to our success has been securing a strong presence in international markets.
Our company, which is family-run, manufactures unique ergonomic stereo microscopes, digital inspection and non-contact measuring systems. As well as investing heavily in research, development and innovation, our team works hard to preserve a strong culture of innovation and quality, the ensures we have strong brand recognition and a solid reputation to match.
The fact that 90% of our products are exported across Europe, to the US and Asia is sign not only of the quality of our microscopes but also the company’s long-established supply chain, that is trusted and respected by our partners. There are clear signs that the political class is doing all it can to encourage other businesses to embrace international markets.
Recently, the government announced new export package for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).
The package was launched by Liam Fox, secretary of state for international trade, and a man whose key job is drumming up support abroad and encouraging our own companies to explore export options.
Key elements of the proposals include ‘The Small Deal Initiative’ – designed to back new exporters undertaking smaller contracts that are key for British trade. Extending financial support to firms in exporters supply chains as well as exporters themselves.
Additional financial resources will be made available to exporters’ supply chains.
Announcing the programme, Liam Fox said, “These announcements are potential gamechangers for our export industry and will help us to tap a fresh vein of potential from within our economy.”
These proposals, whilst welcome, require manufacturing and engineering companies to seize the moment and explore exciting new export options in order to drive economic growth. We need our largest employers to start thinking in much more international terms about growth, job creation and how best to showcase product innovation to the wider world.
So whichever path the country or our politicians choose to take in respect of the referendum result, let’s the debate around Britain’s export potential to start drumming up interest and confidence in our country’s ability to sell products overseas.
Driving this new wave of fresh thinking will boost sales and fuel job creation in the critical areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
It will open up new career opportunities for the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators, as well as stimulating the wider economy.
Most importantly of all, rediscovering Britain’s true export potential will reignite the a passion for such exciting industries that transformed the economic prospects of our country, for which we remain world leaders.
Mark Curtis is Managing Director at Vision Engineering, a leading global supplier and pioneer of eyepiece-less stereo microscopes
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