1 Introduction |
The purpose of the inquiry and
the aim of the report
1. This Report has taken far longer than anticipated
when, on 26 July 2007, the Committee announced its intention to
carry out an inquiry into creating a higher value-added economy.
The intention of the Committee was to build on the findings of
its reports into better skills for manufacturing and public
procurement, but it was forced by the recession to turn its attention
to other urgent subjects.
However, innovation remains a vital issue for an advanced economy
like that of the United Kingdom and arguably is of even greater
relevance at a time of severe economic challenge. The inquiry's
terms of reference were broad:
- What is meant by a high value-added
economy? Which business activities qualify as such?
- How UK business compares internationally in areas
such as research and development, creativity and design.
- What can be learnt from the experiences of other
countries in this area and how fast other countries are moving
up the value chain?
- The extent to which UK business has absorbed
new business practices such as lean manufacturing.
- Why some sectors of the UK economy appear to
be more effective at embracing value-added activities than others?
- The impact on business of government efforts
to promote research and development, including the research and
development tax credit.
- The progress that has been made on university/business
co-operation and knowledge transfer since the publication of the
Lambert Review in December 2003.
- Whether business and government interpret innovation
- What the Government can do to further promote
higher value-added business activities and innovative thinking
among UK businesses.
- The impact of nationality of ownership on the
location of research and development work.
- The effectiveness of machinery of government
arrangements in encouraging innovation and creativity.
2. The Committee is not the only organisation
preoccupied by these questions. They have underlain the work of
many other bodies in recent years. As the Engineering Employers
Federation (EEF) told us in their evidence "concerns have
been addressed in the recommendations made in the reviews of innovation
conducted by Lord Sainsbury and of skills by Lord Leitch".
In the course of our inquiry, the Government has published further
documents and speeches relating to this topic.
3. This has been an extremely long running inquiry,
informed by seven evidence sessions and an extensive programme
of visits. The Committee is extremely grateful to all those who
contributed to the inquiry. We were keen to ensure that we both
looked at the way in which innovation could be supported in 'traditional'
innovative industry, and that we also took a wider view. We took
oral evidence from Professor Peter NC Cooke KPMG, Professor
of Automotive Management at the University of Buckingham and Mr
Eric Wallbank, Automotive Sector Leader for Ernst & Young;
Sir John Rose, Chief Executive, Mr Charles Blundell, Head of Public
Affairs, and Mr Mike Terrett, Chief Operating Officer, Rolls-Royce
Group plc; Mr Richard Halkett, Executive Director, Policy and
Research Unit, National Endowment for Science, Technology and
the Arts (NESTA); Mr Will Hutton, Chief Executive, and Mr Ian
Brinkley, Director, Knowledge Economy Programme, Work Foundation;
Professor Michael Clarke, Vice-Principal, and Dr James Wilkie,
Director of Research & Commercial Services, Birmingham University;
Professor Madeleine Atkins, Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ian Marshall,
Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, and Professor Keith Popplewell,
Director of Future Manufacturing Applied Research Centre, Coventry
University; Mr Mick Laverty, Chief Executive, Dr Richard Hutchins,
Corporate Director for Economic Development and Dr Phil Extance,
Director of Innovation, Advantage West Midlands; Ms Rachel Elnaugh,
Entrepreneur and former panellist on Dragon's Den and Mr Doug
Richard, Entrepreneur, Chair of Conservative Party Small Business
Task Force and former panellist on Dragon's Den; Ms Frances O'Grady,
Deputy General Secretary, and Mr Tim Page, Senior Policy Officer,
Trades Union Congress (TUC); Mr John Cridland, Deputy Director
General, Confederation of British Industry (CBI); Mr Andrew Cave,
Head of Policy, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB); and Mr Iain
Gray, Chief Executive, Mr David Bott, Director of Innovation Programmes,
Mr Graham Hutchins, Director of Operations and Services, Technology
Strategy Board (TSB).
4. We were eager to talk to practitioners around
the country, and some of our oral evidence was taken on committee
visits. As well as taking formal evidence, we met a wide range
of people involved in innovation: academics, entrepreneurs and
government bodies. We visited Cambridge, the West Midlands, the
British Library in London, Glasgow and Edinburgh. A full list
of meetings is included in Annex B.
5. One of the most useful parts of the inquiry
was the visit to the United States to assess what could be learnt
from the experience there. That visit enabled us to look at: the
way in which innovation was funded; interactions between universities,
businesses and public authorities; industry collaborations; and
publicly funded technology transfer organisations. We looked at
Federal Organisations such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects
Agency (DARPA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology
(NIST) in Washington; at the Research Triangle Park and at the
university-centred activity in Boston. It was invaluable for setting
the UK experience in context.
6. In addition to our evidence, we have drawn
on the wide range of material published by others. There is a
danger that so much is said about the high value-added economy,
about innovation and about how policy can foster it, that it is
difficult to keep up with the policy debate. Our purpose is to
focus at a very high level on what the higher value-added economy
means for the United Kingdom, and to make recommendations about
the overall policy approach. In addition, we encountered many
examples of best practice, and the Report offers an opportunity
to draw attention to some of these. We recommend that those who
are interested in exploring these topics in more detail look at
the evidence published with this Report, where experts have given
their views freely.
The background to our inquiry:
history and circumstances
7. No sensible assessment of the United Kingdom's
needs can be made without an appreciation of two underlying factorsour
nation's extraordinary history of innovation, beginning with the
Industrial Revolution and continuing to this very day and, linked
to that, a proper understanding of the current economic context.
8. Britain's continuing success as a manufacturing
nationsomething not fully understood and which we analyse
belowowes much to our long history of innovation. Dating
the exact beginning of the Industrial Revolution would be a matter
of academic debate. It would be convenient for our Report to say
it began in 1709, exactly 300 years ago, when Abraham Darby first
used coke to smelt iron ore, replacing wood and charcoal as fuel.
But it is safer to be less specific. As one of Britain's leading
From the 1730s and 1740s, the majority of British
commentators argued that modern achievements were superior to
those of former times, especially the ancient world. A culture
of improvement lay at the heart of much innovation and the diffusion
of new techniques and machinery, although art, architecture, furniture
and much else in the cultural world, all used classical designs.
Progress took many forms, but the most important
was a belief in the prospect and attraction of change. From 1759,
there was a marked increase in the number of patents, testimony
to an interest in the profitable possibilities of change.
9. It is safe to say, then, that Britain's Industrial
Revolution began at least 250 years ago and that this head start
on the rest of the world is one of the reasons that the United
Kingdom, to this day, enjoys a lead in many manufacturing technologiesa
lead that is not properly appreciated or celebrated. A central
theme of this Report is the need for politicians and commentators
to understand just how successful we continue to be as a nation
in many sectors.
10. All too often, the rhetoric about the British
competitive position is unduly pessimistic. In the last few months
the following headlines have appeared:
- UK manufacturing 'falls off
a cliff' - The Guardian, 1 December 2008;
- Manufacturing outlook "grim" - The
Telegraph, 2 January 2009;
- UK Manufacturing report near record Jan weakness
- Reuters UK, 2 February 2009;
- Outlook for UK manufacturing continues to worsen
- businessweekly.co.uk, 6 February 2009;
- UK Manufacturing still on the decline - Agent
Cities, 13 May 2009; and
- Figures reveal biggest slump in manufacturing
output for 35 years - The Daily Mail, 2 June 2009.
11. This Report is not about the recession or
its causes. It does not look at any alleged failures of policy
by this Government that may have contributed to the recession,
just as it does not look at any similar allegations about the
then Government's response to the previous recession in 1991.
It is, however, a matter of fact that the current recession has
hit British industry hard. The CBI, in supplementary evidence
to the Committee, summarised the effects of the current economic
downturn on business:
Aside from the negative effects on aggregate demand
and output, there will undoubtedly be other, more permanent, effects
on the business community. Clearly the UK financial system has
already changed radically. Even when the economy emerges from
recession, we do not envisage a return to pre-2007 credit conditions
anytime soon. This may have adverse consequences for business
formation, investment and innovation.
12. The most recent figures show the severity
of current conditions for industry. Manufacturing output has fallen
13.7% below the level of a year ago, and is at the lowest level
since 1991. But although the Committee recognises that the economy
is facing severe difficulties, the United Kingdom is not alone
in this. For example, in the year to January 2009, manufacturing
output in Germany fell by 20%.
13. However, the broader contextthe product
at least in part of two and a half centuries of innovationis
rarely given. As the title of a PricewaterhouseCoopers report
issued this April put it: "The future of UK Manufacturing:
Reports of its death are greatly exaggerated".
Similarly, whatever one's views of the right balance of different
sectors in the economy, one cannot deny that the United Kingdom
has real competitive strength in the service sector. The United
Kingdom was the second largest exporter of commercial services
in the world in 2008, surpassed only by the US.
14. There is, of course, room for legitimate
debate about the extent to which the policies of successive governments
since the Second World War have assisted or damaged industry,
but the UK economy is not the weakling some commentators suggest.
Innovation Nation (published in March 2008) states that
"In 2007, the UK exported around £75 billion of knowledge
services, an increase of 170% on the decade before, and now makes
up about a quarter of all UK exports. Exports have outpaced imports
such that the surplus on trade has trebled from 1.8% of GDP in
1995 to 3.3% in 2005."
15. Similarly, although Britain runs a significant
trade deficit in manufacturing, the manufacturing sector is not
as weak as commonly supposed. Manufacturing accounts for 13% of
the United Kingdom's GDP, making the United Kingdom the sixth
largest manufacturer in the world (measured by output)
and 25% of the United Kingdom's exports are high-tech goods.
Innovation Nation argues that the sector is, therefore,
not in decline, particularly as manufacturing production has increased
by 50% since 1997. This is not simply the Government's view; EEF
told us that there had been a "modest increase in manufacturing
output of 4.2% between the end of 2002 and August 2007".
16. The United Kingdom is also a relatively open
economy. The EEF told us "Relative to its GDP, the stock
of foreign direct investment (FDI) stood at 37% in the UK in 2005.
This compares with 28% in France, 18% in Germany, 13% in the United
States and 12% in Italy. Similarly, the stock of British outward
investment stands at 56% of GDP, well ahead of France (40%) and
This has advantages and disadvantages; there are clear signs that
companies prefer to locate their research and development (R&D)
in their home market.
On the other hand, the need to compete globally provides an inbuilt
spur for competitiveness, and exposes companies to best practice
17. This is not to deny there are serious challenges.
The UK economy is competing in a global market of goods and services,
and cannot compete on labour costs. China, India and other developing
countries can offer skilled workforces at far lower costs. In
the view of NESTA, "for the UK to remain competitive it will
need to move up the value chain, rather than compete solely on
cost. It will therefore have to both generate high value-added
activities and create the conditions that sustain its advantage
against increasingly rapid progress by international competitors".
The Sainsbury Review considers that "in today's global economy,
investment in science and innovation is not an intellectual luxury
for a developed country, but an economic and social necessity,
and a key part of any strategy for economic success".
The more open an economy is, the more important it is to ensure
that it has the skills and attitudes needed to sustain higher
18. Over-caution and even pessimism about the country's relative
economic situation, and the skills and expertise it can offer,
can lead directly to the United Kingdom appearing a less attractive
place for investment than is actually the case. This would be
unfortunate in any case; it is doubly so in such an open and internationally
linked economy. It can also deter able young people from even
considering jobs in the industry sectors whose future is wrongly
disparaged in casual comments by those who should know better.
19. Higher value-added goods and services will be essential
to the strength of the UK economy in the future. Encouraging
the growth of such activities depends on a realistic and measured
assessment of the United Kingdom's strengths and weaknesses.
This does not mean refusing to acknowledge the very real economic
difficulties which face the country. However, this should be
balanced by more confident and better-informed acknowledgement
of the economy's very real underlying strengths.
1 Trade and Industry Committee, Fifth Report of Session
2006-07, Better skills for manufacturing, HC 493. Trade
and Industry Committee, Thirteenth Report of Session 2006-07,
The future of UK manufacturing: public procurement,
HC 1109. Back
Ev 183 [EEF]. HM Treasury (2007), The Race to the Top, A Review
of Government's Science and Innovation Policies conducted
by Lord Sainsbury of Turville; HM Treasury (2006), Leitch
Review of Skills, Prosperity for all in the Global Economy- World
Class Skills Back
Jeremy Black, "The Making of Modern Britain", 2001 Back
Ev 160 [CBI] Back
BNP Paribas, March 09 Back
WTO Trade Statistics Database Back
Innovation Nation, DUIS, HMT and BERR, March 2008 Back
In 2008, the UK was still the 6th-largest manufacturer in the
world by value of output as ranked by the UN Council for Trade
and Development." Source: http://www.pwc.co.uk/pdf/UKmanufacturing_300309.pdf Back
2006 was a record year for UK exports, and according to a 2008
report by BERR, 25% of UK exports in 2006 were high-tech goods,
compared with 22% in the USA, 15% in France and 11% in Germany."
Source: http://www.pwc.co.uk/pdf/UKmanufacturing_300309.pdf Back
Ev 176 [EEF] Back
Ev 181 [EEF] Back
Ev 118 [Advantage West Midlands] Back
Ev 213 [NESTA] Back
HM Treasury (2007), The Race to the Top, A Review of Government's
Science and Innovation Policies conducted by Lord Sainsbury
of Turville; HM Treasury (2006), p22 Back