Manufacturers have warned that Britain risks entering the “industrial slow lane” if support for innovation and hi-tech research is slashed in the forthcoming Spending Review.
The EEF said the important job of balancing the books must not be allowed to derail industry’s long-term prospects by creating uncertainty or adding to the cost burden for globally-exposed manufacturers.
The manufacturers’ organisation said any reduction in Government backing for some of the UK’s most advanced industries would send out the wrong message to companies that are responsible for more than two thirds of the UK’s research and development activity and almost half of exports.
The EEF is also calling on Government to increase backing for Innovate UK, the £600m-a-year body which supports business research and hi-tech development at so-called catapult centres, including Rotherham’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.
Andy Tuscher, regional director, said support for innovation is vital to research programmes, which help keep British businesses at the forefront of new ideas and able to transfer those ideas into commercial successes.
Business Secretary Sajid Javid is said to be considering converting some or all of Innovate UK’s £600m annual budget into loans. If he presses ahead, it is feared that companies might move elsewhere in Europe where grants are still available. Dick Elsy, chief executive of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, told the Sunday Times: “I came from industry three years ago and, as a believer in free markets, I did ask whether catapults could be self funding and not need the Government.
“After three years, I have the polar opposite view. When you are talking about radical shifts in technology, no single company wants to tackle it on its own.
“We offer a place where companies can collaborate with each other and academia and the Government contribution is what brings that together.”