Made in Britain? Can the EU help to revive UK manufacturing?

Here is my introductory message from the breakout session on GB manufacturing at Brussels Briefing Live 2012:

The second part of the title for this session is “Can the EU help to revive UK manufacturing?” ‘Revive’ as a word normally implies that the subject is dead or dying. I would suggest that UK manufacturing is neither dead nor dying.

UK manufacturing has a large worldwide market share and an excellent reputation in many areas, aerospace being a prime example. British manufacturing output peaked in 2007 as such peaked with UK GDP. Jobs have fallen but productivity per employee has more than compensated for this with productivity improvements far in excess of the finance and business services industries.

I would hazard that the use of terminology such as ‘revive’ have a detrimental effect on the perception of UK manufacturing to the point potentially of causing a loss in new & existing business from within and outside the UK. Our use of such terms needs to cease and in fact ways to refresh the image of UK manufacturing ought to be discussed and implemented.

In my experience, which is limited to manufacturers who make products and components for other companies rather than companies who manufacture their own product in house, the fundamental problems with UK manufacturers are lack of: risk taking; diversification and good customer relationship management. Poor CRM (in some cases) is the fundamental reason, again in my experience, that potential business is loss to China in large volumes. Interestingly, cost is often not the primary reason for this loss at all.

The other fundamental issue is the lack of cost effective product assembly in the UK. My research into this over two years has revealed precisely one company in the UK who are prepared to bring in component parts from various manufacturers and then assemble a product. Incidentally, this firm has grown from 2 to 11 employees through the recession years and has had to triple the square footage of their facility. The owner states that providing excellent customer service through offering a complete design to market approach up to and including picking and packing of products is the key driver of his success despite the economic climate.

UK manufacturing has a limited window of opportunity. The perceived lack of IP protection, and lack of quality of manufacturing in the Far East still leads people to manufacture in the UK despite the issues highlighted. The Chinese government is already addressing this as they are more than aware that they have to in order to win further business from the major economies. If the UK can seize this opportunity to invest predominantly, effort into helping, particular small manufacturers, to revise their business practices then I believe we can create a sustainable, thriving sector that will be perfectly positioned to thrive.

The EU can help by encouraging and supporting business owners in this sector to adapt, change and crucially hugely improve their attitude to their clients. By its very nature, the industry requires substantial investment to remain competitive and again the EU could help in this area but only if access to finance or grants is obvious, simple and crucial time efficient for business owners. However, I believe that support to improve business practise is the far more important issue to address.

This speech was given at Brussels Briefing Live 2012 by Phil Staunton of D2M Innovation | Patent, Prototype and Launch an Idea

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An Introduction to Horizon 2020 | The EU Research & Innovation Framework Program

Horizon 2020 is the framework program that delivers the EU’s 80 Billion euro budget for research and innovation. It is part of the Innovation Union’s flagship initiative which is in turn a part of the EU2020 strategy for growth and jobs. The program is focused on three key areas: ‘industrial leadership’, ‘societal challenges’ and ‘excellent science’. It replaces the current seventh framework program and runs until 2020, hence the name.

The Horizon 2020 program goes a long way to addressing the concerns surrounding its predecessor program. It aims to: streamline grant applications; provide a central point of contact of EU grant funding and roll out key elements of effective programs to ensure further improvement is made across all funding initiatives for which it will acts as an umbrella organisation.

The program states that Research and Innovation is a key driver of employment and that job creation therefore is its key aim.

Horizon 2020 will use the model utilised by the European Research Council which chooses scientific proposals to be funded based on peer review. It is widely agreed upon that ‘excellence’ must be the sole determining factor in allocating grant funding of research and the peer review system used by the ERC is widely regarded as very successful. It is not clear whether this system will be used for the access for risk finance or innovation in SME’s sections of the program budget, although this would offer an interesting alternative to relying on Government to select ‘winners’ rather than ‘losers’.

The challenge is to develop the excellent science that the EU has a reputation for into actual innovation and therefore gain the economic advantage that goes with this. This calls for an exceptionally integrated process that not only produces ‘excellent’ science but then goes on to develop products, services and jobs off the back of this. We must invest in science but we must invest too in applied science and commercialization of this science as well as funding direct innovation projects.

It has been pointed out by Christopher Hull, secretary general of Earto, that the US, China, Korea and others have clearly tipped the balance of public R&D spending towards applied research and deployment (pilots, demonstrators, first applications, etc). with China spending 58% and the US 48% while the EU lags by spending just 20%. The current economic climate, and therefore the primary concern of employment held by all the people of the EU, demands that more thought is put into determining the funding split to drive job creation. H2020 doesn’t seem to redress this balance although within the EIT (European Institute of Innovation and technology), that will receive a large portion of the funding, there seems to be recognition of the fact that many creative ideas do not make it to market partly due to a lack of entrepreneurship.

The advantage of an innovation heavy approach is that job creation is both more certain and substantially faster. Investing in high risk, substantial scientific research now is unlikely to produce any tangible jobs, other than for the scientists employed, during the life of H2020.

There is specific budgetary portions with H2020 allocated for SMEs and rightly so seeing as SME’s create 80% of new jobs through flexibility and strong innovation power. They also produce two thirds of GDP. SME are viewed as conduits to bring research results to market and H2020 seems to address the key requirements for SMEs for a program to provide a one stop shop for the whole innovation cycle. The program must have simple rules and administrative procedures and a short time to grant and in all these aspects H2020 makes significant progress. The other key requirement for SME’s is coaching and mentoring throughout the whole innovation cycle.

It is suggested that H2020 will use the US SBIR program which has been largely successful. It provides a three stage seamless process through feasibility, R&D and commercialization. Commercialisation is focused on by motivating researchers to be entrepreneurs, developing role models and coaching entrepreneurs into investment readiness.

The integration of the societal challenge element should help to provide an overall vision for the development of innovation within the EU. Hopefully this will avoid a shopping list approach that has been suggested simply helps to satisfy various stakeholders. The European commissioner on research innovation and science, Maire Geoghegan Quinn, is adamant that it is crucial the program has less curiosity driven science and more real world impact in short, she says: “We just need to get better at commercializing ideas.”

In summary, this program is a challenge of balancing funding priorities while also developing a clear strategy for ensuring that excellent science translates into superb applied science and finally successful exploitation.There is a fantastic opportunity here to spend a substantial budget for the benefit for all by facilitating a huge increase in employment across the EU. However, to maximize impact, mechanisms must be provided that ensure a joined up process and a split of funding, that allows significant capacity to exploit the available innovation and science.

This speech was given at Brussels Briefing Live 2012 by Phil Staunton of D2M Innovation | Patent, Prototype and Launch an Idea



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D2M MD informing EU policy on Innovation!

D2M MD, Phil Staunton, is speaking at Brussels Briefing Live 2012 this Thursday at the Commonwealth Club in London.

Find out more… Can the EU help revive UK manufacturing?

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Introducing Vivien

Vivien is a highly experienced Textile Product Developer who has worked on an impressive range of products, spanning many different materials and techniques. Vivien has a City & Guilds qualification in machine embroidery and in felt making.

In order to achieve these qualifications she had to work at a consistently high level and demonstrate a thorough knowledge of working with textiles and a wide variety of stitching techniques. She also received C&G advanced certificates in upholstery and soft furnishing, building on her range of techniques and skills in using a vast variety of materials.

She also received a Regent Academy Certificate at Distinction Level in interior design. Partly as a result of this, Vivien has a strong ability to listen carefully to, and understand client briefs and produce successful results. In addition, Vivien taught a course herself on interior design which then highlighted her pleasure of teaching, leading her to achieve a Certificate of Education from Oxford Brooks University.

Vivien’s degree was a BA Honours in Textile Design. Whilst taking this degree she also took a course in pattern cutting at the London College of Fashion, in order to achieve the desired result for her end project. She now works at D2M as part of our textile team, providing her with experience in working with a large array of materials: webbing, Velcro, polyester, plastics; internal lining, waterproof material, technical outdoor material; zips and straps. It has also meant that she is also skilled in integrating textiles with metal and plastic components.

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How to Register a Patent on your Idea

This question comes up a lot and I have now added a section to our website all about registering a patent. It includes detailed information on How to Register a Patent:

How to Register a Patent on your Idea

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Design Patents explained

New page added to our website:

Full of information on design patents and patenting an idea.

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Using the UK Patent Office to file a patent

If you are filing a patent in the UK, you have to use the Patent Office (now known as the UK Intellectual Property Office). Before you approach the Patent Office you will need a drafted patent and drawings of your invention. To complete this you may well need a product designer to design your idea and sort out how it will work. (Patents are for how a new concept works not just the overall idea.) If you use an attorney they will handle the filing for you but alternatively you can self-file and the Patent Office has a team to support individuals filing applications themselves.

Want to know more? Use this link… Filing a Patent at the UK Patent Office

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