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Manufacturing industry needs more innovation

There need for more innovation in the manufacturing industry has been highlighted by new research.

Just 11 per cent of manufacturers have a system in place to enhance innovation; this could put the UK at a distinct disadvantage in the future due to the many challenges the manufacturing sector is currently facing, according to RSM, who conducted the survey.

RSM found that more than half of the manufacturers interviewed said they do intend invest in business systems at some point. However, these efforts are mainly concentrated on technology to improve the way the business is run, boost efficiency and productivity, but many UK manufacturers are neglecting to invest in innovation.

Discussing the research, Mike Thornton, head of manufacturing for RSM, said:

‘As many UK manufacturers prepare for a potential surge in competition and uncertain trading conditions, harnessing technology could be the answer to future success. Technology will play an important role to help the sector become more efficient, productive and, in turn, more competitive, but this requires significant investment into the right software, equipment and talent to drive change.’

Lack of innovation not limited to manufacturing industry

Experts say that innovation is crucial if the UK manufacturing industry is going to be competitive post-Brexit and if it is to keep up with cheaper manufacturing bases like China.

However, the manufacturing sector isn’t the only industry struggling when it comes to innovation.

A study from PWC found that relatively few of the UK-based companies interviewed (32 per cent) viewed innovation as important, with most companies preferring to prioritise technology instead.

Government initiatives to improve innovation in manufacturing

Although a considerable percentage of manufactures admit that investing in innovation isn’t their priority, government agency Innovate UK say UK manufactures do still rate as a ‘major driver of innovation’.

The agency also explains how new technologies that involve digitisation, like the Internet of Things and cloud based data, have the power to transform manufacturing.

Digitisation is where a new generation of ideas and products is most likely to come from in the future, and progress is being made in this area. Research shows that most UK companies plan to have invested in digitalisation by 2021, although they don’t plan to invest quite as much as other countries.

And to encourage fresh innovations in the sector, government agency Innovate UK has opened the third round of funding competition, which is designed to encourage manufacturers to come forward with new ideas.

New survey reveals why businesses are reluctant to invest in new energy sources

Businesses of all sizes are often accused of not doing enough to invest in energy efficiency, however, a new survey from British Gas Energy reveals some of the reasons behind this. Among the biggest concerns were political and regulatory uncertainty surrounding Brexit, the recent election and the potential implications for energy technology investment.

The opinions were gathered at the Energy Live Future conference in the first week of June. The large organizations present commented on the need to reduce energy costs, but also stressed the problems of convincing company bosses/team leaders to make the necessary investments.

However, despite these challenges, Gab Barbaro, Managing Director of British Gas Business, has urged business owners to be more proactive when it comes to energy use, saying:

“My challenge to business leaders is to get smart and be more proactive about their energy use. Businesses must think long-term rather than be swayed by current political or economic uncertainty - there are countless opportunities for organisations to save money on their bills today, by getting to grips with how it’s being used and acting where it’s being wasted.”

Other barriers to energy efficiency

Another barrier to the adoption of the latest energy technologies, like smart meters, is that business owners often lack a basic understanding of them, and their advantages.

And another issue is worries over cyberattacks. Two thirds of companies interviewed by PWC are concerned that the data stored by utility companies from smart meters could be compromised, and these reservations are costing businesses money.

The increasing cost of energy

Rising energy bills means companies can spend twice as much on their energy bills, according to the Carbon Trust.

Although the Carbon Trust’s figures were taken from 2014, spiralling energy costs continue to put a strain on businesses’ finances, and analysts are warning that the UK industry could suffer as a result.

Cost savings from energy efficiency

Although there is some resistance to introducing new energy technologies and trends into the workplace, UK-based businesses are being urged to embrace them due to the advantages they offer, such as cost savings.

It’s estimated that companies that introduce energy saving measures could save up to 20 per cent on their energy costs. And specialist manufacturers who use the most energy, such as the petrochemical, food and beverages and industrial gases sectors, potentially have the most to save by adopting efficiency measures.

UK’s offshore wind energy potential revealed in new report

A recently-released study has detailed the potential of offshore wind in the United Kingdom. Wind power usage in the country has already reached record levels, and the research has concluded that its use is likely to increase considerably in the years ahead.

The report is titled Unleashing Europe’s Offshore Wind Potential and it was published by BVG Associates. It estimates that by 2030, offshore wind capacity could be providing a total of 25 gigawatts and powering over 20 million UK homes.

Commenting on the study, RenewableUK’s Executive Director, Emma Pinchbeck, said:

“This report shows what our innovative offshore wind industry can deliver in the years ahead, securing economic growth and cheaper electricity. The Government can help us by continuing to hold fiercely competitive auctions for financial support, as well as putting offshore wind at the heart of its upcoming Industrial Strategy. Clear, bold, modern energy policy will attract billions of pounds of investment”.  

UK among those leading the way

Although the surge in wind power usage has been relatively recent, it has been used in the United Kingdom for a quarter of a century, when the first ten wind turbines were launched in Delabole, Cornwall.

Currently, the United Kingdom is among the world’s top ten generators of wind power, and the UK is set for a dramatic increase in wind power due to the investment from companies like Dong Energy.

Construction is currently underway on the world’s biggest wind farm, which is scheduled to be commissioned in 2020; this is just one of the projects that are being planned as the UK’s energy industry and government ministers seek alternatives to fossil fuels.

Wind power in the winter

Further research indicates how wind power could be an effective means of energy production in the winter season too.

The team concluded that wind power could help provide power during the coldest times of the winter, and assist in meeting the higher power demands during those periods.

The research also indicates that if there was a ‘widespread’ of turbines throughout Great Britain, it would be possible to optimise power supply by taking advantage of the mixed wind patterns that are experienced in the winter.

The approach could also help to allay some of the worries over energy sustainability as it was found offshore wind power provided a ‘more secure supply’ than onshore power.

The study was conducted by scientists from the Met Office, the Imperial College London and the University of Reading and it was published in the Environmental Research Letters journal.

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