Is the UK missing out on the benefits of tech innovation?

Norval Scott
August 24, 2023
Is the UK missing out on the benefits of tech innovation?

Is the UK missing out on the benefits of technological innovation because it doesn’t recognise the value of the manufacturing sector?

That’s the view of UK government adviser (and Pragmatic chief executive) Scott White, in a recent article in the Times (£paywall): 

“We’re really, really good at inventing things, but we tend to not to capture the full value of them because we have this view that manufacturing isn’t important, but we capture 80 per cent of the value by taking it to industrial production,” he said.

To paraphrase, the argument is that in the UK, we’re great at coming up with ideas and innovations, but because of underinvestment in and lack of support for domestic manufacturing, we’re not as good as other countries at actually making them. And that means we aren’t benefiting as much as we should - because we don’t capture as much of the value chain.

For example, think of Dyson: brilliant ideas, dreamt up and designed in the UK, but manufactured in Singapore, which reaps the benefits of that investment

The Times article specifically references the boom in semiconductors, where: “The United States, the European Union and Japan are each putting tens of billions of dollars into fostering homegrown supplies of the critical electronic components.

“However, ministers have been clear that Britain will not look to step up mass microchip manufacturing and will focus instead on its expertise in design and the sophisticated compound semiconductors found in sensors, putting a far smaller £1 billion into the sector over the next decade.”

Technology and innovation in manufacturing

So… what’s the solution?

At CloudNC, we think the answer to missing out on the benefits of technology innovation… is to fix the problem with technology. 

If we use technology to make the manufacturing process more efficient, then we can enable domestic manufacturers to better compete with forces like globalisation and cope with challenges like the skills gap, rejuvenating domestic output and capturing more of the manufacturing value chain. 

That’s not just because we’re working on solutions that include software to accelerate how quickly and easily a new component can be programmed for a CNC machine, saving manufacturers hundreds of hours of production time a year. 

After all, there’s many other advances coming to the market too that companies are employing to improve functionality. For example, Augury is an Israel-based unicorn that uses new technology to stop factories and machines from breaking down – keeping supply chains operational and functional.

The scale-up makes wireless sensors that pick up the sounds emitted by factory equipment, and then analyses those sounds with artificial intelligence, detecting patterns that reveal whether the machines are working flawlessly, or about to run amok.

Similar efficiency gains can be earned by taking better care of inputs and outputs. For example, by reducing the amount of material needed to produce a component, or decreasing the waste involved in its manufacture.

Solugen, a US-based chemicals company, is doing both: it’s applying enzymes and catalysis to corn syrup, transforming it into chemicals used in almost every industry, including manufacturing. In doing so, it’s able to eliminate the use of fossil fuels like oil, coal and natural gas from the process, reducing both the cost and the carbon footprint.

In theory, Solugen’s solutions could produce some 90% of the chemicals today that we currently use fossil fuels to produce. So, if the company can scale its output globally, it could change the paradigm for any industry that uses chemicals in large quantities, such as manufacturing.

Global supply chains in the future

It’s nice to point to all the technological advances coming down the line - but will they really fix everything, and revitalise national manufacturing output?

Well, at CloudNC we have put our money where our mouth is. We operate a high-spec factory, in Chelmsford (near London), that contains the highest quality 5-axis machines, supplying parts and components for the UK aerospace, nuclear, oil and gas, and automotive sectors. 

At that factory, we’re implementing and roadtesting our own software - ensuring both that it’s ready to help manufacturers worldwide, and that our factory is at the cutting edge of technology and able to meet the needs of our customers, whatever they may be.

So, we believe that if supplied with groundbreaking technology, the UK manufacturing sector can compete on a global playing field and flourish, benefiting us all. 

And we believe that not just because we’re supplying the sector with that technology - we’re directly benefiting from it too. 

Think our solutions can help you? Get in touch and benefit from the very latest in manufacturing technology, today! 

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