Business backs manufacturing-led recovery

Manufacturing and technology:  most important industries for economic recovery, reveals survey of UK companies.

Can be the 'backbone and brains' of the economy, says Leader of Birmingham City Council.

May help address economic imbalances, encouraging growth outside London and South East.

 Research shows overwhelming support for spreading prosperity around the UK.

Business people have identified manufacturing and technology as the most important sectors to help secure economic recovery. Much has been made of manufacturing's declining importance to the UK economy, but after strong recent growth in the industry*, companies believe it has a crucial role to play in the UK's 21st century economy.  

The survey of 505 business people at manager level and above was commissioned by Marketing Birmingham, the city's promotional and inward investment body, which is finding ways to promote private sector growth and economic prosperity in Birmingham.

Manufacturing was selected by 27 per cent of respondents as the most important sector to secure economic recovery from a choice of eight. 21 per cent chose technology, which was well ahead of financial services on 13 per cent and even further ahead of sectors like construction/real estate, retail, public sector and energy. Only three per cent chose a different sector from these.

"Reports of UK manufacturing's death are greatly exaggerated," said Mike Whitby, Leader of Birmingham City Council. "Manufacturing output in the UK has actually steadily increased in the last few decades and it accounts for 11 per cent of our workforce# and 13 per cent of economic outputO.

"It is encouraging that business people recognise the important role manufacturing will play as we try to secure economic recovery. Given the opportunities created by a weak pound and the highly skilled manufacturing workforce that we have, particularly in places like Birmingham and the surrounding area, it is crucial that we encourage inward investment and realise the great potential that this industry has."

UK manufacturing output rose year-on-year by 4.3 per cent in May, 4.1 per cent in June and 4.9 per cent in July* a 16 year record and is forecast to continue outpacing the economy as a whole.

"Technology has also been widely identified as a sector where high growth rates can be achieved," continued Mike Whitby. "By creating the right business environment for hi-tech industries we can not only boost this sector, but use its innovations to boost others. For example, low carbon technology is creating new manufacturing demand by opening new markets for, say, low carbon cars. We're using this synergy in Birmingham and the West Midlands to develop the area as a leader in low carbon vehicle technology and its deployment. Together, manufacturing and technology can be the backbone and brains of the economy."

The research also reveals that business people are concerned about regional economic imbalances an overwhelming 77 per cent of respondents agree there should be greater focus on spreading economic prosperity around the country. Despite London and the South East currently benefiting from higher GDP per capita than the rest of the UK, 62 per cent of business people from this area also agree, while only 23 per cent disagree.

"As well as benefiting the UK economy, supporting manufacturing and technology can help address regional economic imbalances," said Neil Rami, Chief Executive of Marketing Birmingham. "Places outside of the South East, like Birmingham, are benefiting from a resurgent manufacturing sector, given that 14 per cent of jobs in the West Midlands are in this sector compared to only six per cent in London O. By supporting manufacturing and creating a business environment that attracts foreign investment, the sector can help drive growth in many areas around the UK.

"The technology sector is also not centralised. Hubs can be created at universities and science parks across the country not just in London and the South East.

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