As Sir James Dyson noted in a report on revitalising the manufacturing sector, it could, if supported properly by government, play a major part in the future growth of the UK economy. Dyson suggested that it is critical for the UK economy to rebalance itself away from financial services and property, two sectors that did not generate as much added value as many had suggested. With policymakers now looking for an export-led growth over the next few years, it is clear that manufacturing – which already accounts for half of the UK’s exports – can be doing far more, especially in hi-tech sectors. Secondly, with manufacturing focused outside the south east of England, any growth in the sector will have a disproportionate effect on the less prosperous parts of the UK, including Wales. As Dyson notes in his report: “Whatever it is that creates generic differences between innovators and non-innovators, the consequence is that the former are likely to be quicker, more flexible, more adaptable, and more capable in dealing with market pressures than the latter are.”
Under the last three Assembly Governments, there has been a decline in manufacturing from 28 per cent of the Welsh economy in 1997 to 18 per cent of the nation’s economic output. Despite this reduction in the overall role of manufacturing, it retains a larger role in the Welsh economy than in many other regions. From global giants such as Airbus and Corus to thousands of small companies producing specialist goods across the country, there remains real potential within the manufacturing sector in Wales.
THE WAY FORWARD
The Commission believe that a coherent approach by WAG could herald a revival for manufacturing again, especially if companies have the right management, the right products and the right skills in place, and the exchange rate remains competitive to drive export activity. More importantly, Wales, with the right support from governments in Westminster and Cardiff Bay, could be leading such developments given that we have some great manufacturing companies, both large and small, that could help drive forward both the Welsh and the UK economy over the next decade. The Welsh Assembly Government should therefore look to implement the manufacturing strategy for Wales immediately and provide support for the manufacturing sector to develop in the future. There should also be greater support provided by the UK Government for the manufacturing sector and politicians and other groups in Wales should work alongside other regions, such as the Midlands, to ensure greater political support for the sector.