In this policy statement, we consider whether UK manufacturing will be left behind as others seize on the opportunities to manufacture and supply composite-based products.
The UK’s composites industry employs over 40,000 people and has an estimated turnover of £1.6 billion a year. Over the coming decade, global demand for composite products is set to reach £50 billion as the need for lightweight and energy-efficient components and structures grows. Yet familiarity with composites, particularly in end-product markets compared to other traditional materials, is still very low in the UK.
Will UK manufacturing be left behind as others seize on opportunities to manufacture and supply composite products and materials? Or will industry make a concerted effort to ensure that the UK continues to be a leading player in the composites sector?
In 2009 the UK government and composites manufacturers recognised that commercial barriers and a lack of ‘joined-up thinking’ in understanding industry requirements were impeding national competitiveness. The National Composites Centre (NCC) was established in 2010 to address the government’s strategy by tackling skills shortages and supply chain weaknesses, and to better align the composite industry.
The NCC has made considerable strides in the last four years in increasing engagement with new sectors, and the recently created Composites Leadership Forum (CLF) has collated significant evidence of the current state of the industry and defined actions to update the strategy in 2014. However, the foremost obstacle remains the wider UK manufacturing industry, which struggles to engage with composite materials and processes compared with international competition.
We recognise that the UK could once again miss out on benefiting from UK-invented technologies and we urge the wider industrial community to:
- Identify where composites could be used in their sector and engage with composites research organisations, manufacturers and material suppliers to develop new applications and cross-sector standards.
- Address where gaps exist in their knowledge and skills base by working with the CLF, so that appropriate knowledge transfer and training can be provided.
- Work with the composites industry to identify supply chain gaps and create a supply chain network, enabling improved capability and quality to meet UK and global demand.
Read the press release:
UK needs to seize opportunity presented by multi-billion-pound composites industry