Before I take a look at what the year ahead has in store for UK industry, I always review my thoughts from this time last year – a sort of, “goodbye 2018, hello 2019” exercise.
Last year, I spoke of stoic optimism and a “steady as she goes” year, based on the strong underlying foundations of UK industry despite the choppy political and economic waters.
I still firmly believe the opportunities provided by the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) and digitisation of industry are both immense and critical for UK industry. According to our friends at EEF, the sector presently employs some 2.6 million people, contributes 11% of GVA, accounts for 44% of exports, represents 70% of R&D and accounts for 13% of business investment.
Manufacturing is hugely important to the UK, and I see the clear and present opportunity for each of those metrics to sustain positive growth in 2019.
Having said that, those choppy political and economic waters I referred to last year show no sign of abating just yet, and the uncertainty created is unhelpful to UK industry, as is the vortex of attention that Brexit pulls away from focusing on the opportunities and planning ahead. And it is important for industry to look beyond Brexit where possible.
In October I was delighted to co-host a leadership summit with the US Ambassador to Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Robert Johnson, at the new US Embassy in London.