Minister for Industry and Economic Security gives speech on support for UK manufacturing

Keynote address delivered by the Minister for Industry and Economic Security at Make UK's National Manufacturing Conference

Nusrat Ghani MP

Good morning and thank you to Make UK - not just for inviting to me to speak to you today but for your tireless work in both championing and celebrating the best of British manufacturing.

We’re going to spend a lot of today talking about the innovations of tomorrow, and it’s right that we do so.

But we can’t reflect on the future without first considering the present.

Last Saturday marked two years since Vladimir Putin’s illegal, appalling invasion of Ukraine.

The shockwaves of that invasion continue to reverberate around the world.

Meanwhile, international shipping in the Red Sea has been undermined by unprovoked Houthi attacks.

And the global economy continues to reel from the devastating effects of COVID.

The lesson for us in all of this is the same one which has been hard learnt by the global energy sector in recent years. If the UK is to be safe, secure, and not at the whim of tyrants, key sectors of our economy must be able to stand on their own two feet.  

The days of Western economies outsourcing manufacturing to the cheapest option in far flung corners of the globe are over.

And there is a growing recognition across the West that we must take steps toward being more self-sufficient, more self-determined.

And we must do so in an increasingly competitive global environment.

Every year my department analyses which countries are going to define the future of the world’s economy, not just over the next three years but over the next three decades.

Naturally, we expect to see countries like China, India, and Brazil growing by leaps and bounds. But we are also likely to see some of the world’s smaller economies like Bangladesh growing into even bigger, global players. 

I know it’s become fashionable in some quarters to question whether the rise of these nations – especially in manufacturing – will precipitate our decline. 

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth….

Look around this room and see the health of British manufacturing here today.

What’s encouraging is that despite our varied pasts, everyone here is united in countering the defeatist narrative that the UK doesn’t ‘make anything anymore.’

Because the exact opposite is true. We have always been and always will be a manufacturing powerhouse.  

The figures speak for themselves. Overall, the UK’s industrial sector has increased year on year over the last half century. We have consistently been one of the largest manufacturers in Europe and globally. And, according to the OECD, since 2010 the UK has had the fastest growing manufacturing sector in the G7.

On a more personal level, through the businesses I’ve visited, the innovations I’ve witnessed and the entrepreneurs I speak with every day, I see a manufacturing sector which is not just surviving but thriving and driving growth throughout the UK.

Supporting a thriving manufacturing sector

But the world is changing faster than we ever realised possible. As everyone in this room is well aware the communications revolution of the last 50 years has precipitated a snowball effect of innovation.

Whether it’s the rise of 3D printing, the advent of AI or space tourism, what was science fiction even two decades ago is fast becoming science fact.  

The truth is that if you want to stay in the game you’ve got to be ahead of the game.

That’s why, along with my ministerial colleagues, I am focused on creating the right conditions where future-facing manufacturing businesses can thrive.

Investing in skills through our flagship apprenticeship programme and boot camps…

Building the resilience of our supply chains…

And attracting investment into emerging technologies and green energy.

The Advanced Manufacturing Plan is at the heart of this work.

It sets out our ambition to make the UK the best place in the world, to start, grow and invest in manufacturing…

…An ambition backed by over £4.5bn of investment to continue our successful business programmes to 2030, including in vital sectors like aerospace, aviation, and offshore wind.

And that sits alongside measures to support the whole sector - generous tax relief and business-boosting reforms like making full expensing for businesses permanent; something I know Make UK and others have long-called for.

Alongside this work we’ve brought in five new Advanced Manufacturing investment zones each with an envelope of £160 million over ten years.

So, we’re making progress and I’m pleased Make UK’s recent Executive Survey for 2024 reflects that too - a majority of manufacturers view the UK as a more competitive place compared with just a third in the previous year.

However, I’m well aware that your report out today suggests a series of additional steps the Government should take. It’s a vital contribution to the debate on how we create a pro-business, innovation nation and we’ll be carefully reviewing its recommendations…. 

For my part, I believe we’ll achieve that goal through striving towards three clear goals.

Boosting innovation through investment….

Building resilience so your businesses are ready for the future….

And delivering for British businesses at home and abroad.

Let me speak to each of these goals.

Boosting investment and innovation

First, investment. For every £1 of Government support for our manufacturing sector, we are leveraging £5 of additional private sector investment.

You can see the tangible impact of that in our automotive sector. The backing of big global players like Nissan, who are set to build two new 100% electric models in their Sunderland plant this year.

It’s a recipe for success we’ve seen replicated across the country and I’m proud that my department is driving that investment forward.

We’ve worked with BMW to secure £600 million investment in the UK so more iconic Mini Coopers can roll off production lines in Oxfordshire.

Meanwhile Ellesmere Port in Cheshire is primed to become our first EV-only factory ensuring that British marques like Jaguar and Land Rover can compete with the best of Tesla, General Motors and BYD.

We’ve been just as ambitious – and just as proactive – in our aviation sector, supporting one of the biggest deals in the industry’s history with Air India – an order for 250 new Airbus aircraft.

A similar deal between Airbus and Turkish Airlines will see 140, Rolls-Royce engines assembled and tested in Derby, fitted to the A350.

These two deals, alone, are worth billions to the UK economy.

As part of our journey not just to Net Zero, but Jet Zero, we’re ploughing just shy of one billion pounds over the next five years into R&D and our Aerospace Technology Institute Programme.

At the same time, thanks to Government investment, Boeing are set to create a new aerospace facility at the Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre creating lightweight composite materials for planes and 8,000 well-paid jobs in the process.

The UK built the Harrier, Concorde and the VC10.

And with the pipeline of investment and talent we’re putting in place today, we will design the next generation of green, clean, aircraft tomorrow…

When we think about the wealth of home-grown energy we can tap into – solar, wind, nuclear, hydrogen – this Government is taking an ‘all of the above’ approach to secure our energy independence.

It’s why we have announced our Green Industries Growth Accelerator to decarbonise our energy system whilst ensuring British manufacturers can capitalise on the transition.

And why, in areas where the UK truly exceeds like offshore wind, we are consulting on major reforms to bring in additional revenue.

In Dogger Bank off the Yorkshire coast, the UK already boasts the largest offshore wind farm in the world.

And while China and the US might be hot on our heels, we’re crowding in the investment so that we always stay ahead of the pack.     

Because when it comes to green manufacturing, our aim is to not to keep up, it is to lead.

That’s why we’ve convened a Battery Strategy Taskforce comprising academic and industry leaders to help the UK press ahead with achieving a globally competitive battery supply chain by 2030.

It’s why the best and brightest of our nation are coming together to invent new solutions for business.  The SUSTAIN Future Manufacturing Research Hub, in which Swansea and Warwick Universities are key partners, is just one of the research projects working right now to decarbonise and improve the efficiency of industry in the UK.

And soon, I will be co-chairing the very first Hydrogen Propulsion Manufacturing Taskforce – which includes leading manufacturing businesses like your own…

Helping us realise the economic and environmental opportunities of hydrogen propulsion technologies in transport.

Building resilience

Next, I want to turn to how we’re building resilience for manufacturers.

We are not naïve about the scale of the challenges manufacturers – really all manufacturing nations throughout the western world – will face over the next half century. 

The UK is and will always be a proud champion of free, fair, global trade.

But that doesn’t mean dependence.

It doesn’t mean reliance on countries that do not always have our best interests at heart. 

It’s why the UK recently became the first ever country to publish a Critical Imports and Supply Chains Strategy - working hand-in-glove with our strategies on semiconductors, batteries, and critical minerals.

This 18-point action plan will enable us to minimise the impacts of supply chain shocks for British business…

But we’re also focused on helping British manufacturing businesses meet a changing world.

On that note, I know the last few months have been exceptionally difficult for the people of Port Talbot – for everyone affected by Tata Steel’s modernisation plans.

We’re making sure there is a proper strategy in place – a transition board – to help people and the local communities throughout this process while investing half a billion pounds for a new, modern electric arc furnace. This is one of the biggest industrial support packages in our nation’s history, that will also act as a catalyst for more opportunities in South Wales, especially when connected with the Celtic Freeport.

It will also mean we can use scrap materials sourced right here in the UK, so we can reduce our reliance on importing raw materials.

In short, the plan we’re funding with Tata will help the steelworks finally move from loss to profit and ensure Port Talbot remains a steel-making town for generations to come.

This is a clear illustration of how Government and industry can work together to make sure UK manufacturing can compete and thrive in the 21st Century. 

And that leads to how we are helping to deliver for manufacturing businesses at home and abroad…

One example is the way we are pressing ahead with our Innovation Accelerator, which I am co-chairing alongside Brian Holliday from Siemens Digital.

This will bring together leaders in AI technology with a cross section of manufacturing companies – raising productivity, increasing sustainability, and boosting competitiveness for companies of all shapes and sizes…

…Because you and I know that our biggest manufacturers are supported by an army of smaller businesses.

And in this, the Government’s Year of the SME, we’re even more conscious than ever that those companies have the right skills and knowledge to succeed…

It’s why we’ve pumping up to £16 million into our Made Smarter programme – so SMEs across every English region can get ready for a digital future…

And I can’t overstate the difference the scheme is making….

Take JIG UK – a bathroom producer – just one of hundreds of firms that are benefitting.

As a result of the Made Smarter programme its capacity hasn’t just doubled it has tripled…

Macalloy, a global manufacturer of tension bars and rod systems is another winner from the programme.  Thanks to Made Smarter it can now produce digital diagnostic tools and has completely transformed their business.

I would encourage any entrepreneur or manufacturer looking to innovate, streamline and drive efficiency to get in touch with my department and discuss how the Made Smarter programme can help you and your business.

So, we’re delivering for British manufacturers in the UK, ensuring the right investment and support is in place at the right time.

But we’re also working hard so that more British-designed, British-made goods can be sold abroad, too.

Our ‘Made in the UK, Sold to the World Programme’ is helping UK manufacturers double exports and sell their products around the globe with a clear target of hitting a £1 trillion of exports by 2030.

Six years out, and we’re already within touching distance of that goal.

We have negotiated free trade agreements with 73 countries from Mexico to Malaysia, lowering tariffs and market access barriers on thousands of UK-made goods.  

Our trade deals with Australia and New Zealand - the first to be negotiated from scratch after Brexit - are already seeing homegrown British businesses breaking into new markets on the other side of the world.

We want to get even more trade agreements with big international partners over the line, including India - the future third largest economy with over one billion potential consumers of UK products, from Bromley bicycles to Barbour jackets.

So let me sum up by saying: that my job is to help you do your jobs.

Creating the best possible conditions for UK manufacturing to not only thrive but to lead the rest of the world.

At the end of the day though – what makes British manufacturing so successful is all of you. It’s brilliant organisations like Make UK.

And I have no doubt that together we can work hard to make sure that Britain’s future as a powerhouse of manufacturing is guaranteed now and for many generations to come.

Thank you.

Department for Business and Trade
Nusrat Ghani MP