What the North’s engineers think of the Autumn Statement

What the North’s engineers think of the Autumn Statement

Leaders from the North of England's engineering and manufacturing sectors share their reactions to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement.

Brian Palmer, CEO of Tharsus, the UK’s leading designer and manufacturer of robotic systems, said: “Today’s Autumn Statement has unveiled some promising news for innovation companies like Tharsus. We welcome the Government’s investment in R&D, particularly the increase for robotics and AI announced today, as well as £390 million investment in future transport technology such as autonomous vehicles.

“The UK is currently lagging behind our international partners in these critical technology areas, with a much smaller proportion of our GDP being generated here than Germany or the US. The new research, development and innovation investment rising to an extra £2 billion per year by 20-21 will help stimulate the growth of this important sector.”

“Tharsus is already a leading player in the UK robotics sector, so confirmation that the Government will actively nurture the wealth of robotics research expertise here in the UK is something we naturally relish and encourage. We’re already supporting customers in applications from healthcare to warehouse automation. We expect the investment announced today will help us, and others like us, to continue bridging the gap between the exciting research coming out of British universities, and the needs of global industry.”

Brian Palmer, CEO of Tharsus

John Elliott, Chairman of Ebac, said: “The Chancellor did nothing to reduce the country’s deficit. The goal of a surplus by 2020 has become pie in the sky economics.

“We can’t continue to keep selling assets and borrowing to spend more than we earn. We have the resources to earn more by manufacturing more, but it won’t happen if it's left to big business. Investing in manufacturing will be much better than spending billions on a high speed train line or on a National Productivity Investment Fund.”

John Elliott, Chairman of Ebac

Penny Marshall, Regional Director of the Institution of Civil Engineers, said: “The Government’s commitment to invest in infrastructure is a step in the right direction. Only by making sufficient funding available for the development and maintenance of roads, railways, the water network and the power grid can we ensure the country is ready to meet the economic, demographic and environmental challenges of the coming decades.”

Penny Marshall, Regional Director of the Institution of Civil Engineers

Richard Hogg, Director of Jackson Hogg Recruitment, said: “The Chancellor’s pledge to invest in research and development, and infrastructure is good news in terms of professional and skilled engineering jobs.

“Industry will also be keen to see the details of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, and what future measure it will take to support the offshore energy sectors.”

Richard Hogg, Director of Jackson Hogg Recruitment

Phil Pallister, managing director of 0800 Repair Gas, based in Houghton le Spring, which operates throughout the North East, said: “Customers of small businesses are directly affected by costs such as fuel, so it is welcome news that the Chancellor has announced the freezing of fuel duty until April 2018. This decision will help ease the burden of firms that operate fleets of vehicles, and, as a result, we should expect firms to pass on the savings to the customer, without further increases in service prices.”

Phil Pallister, managing director of 0800 Repair Gas

Chris McDonald, CEO of the Materials Processing Institute, said: “It was very encouraging to hear the Chancellor’s passion for infrastructure and innovation, and his commitment to a National Productivity Investment Fund of £23bn.

“In order to safeguard economic growth and business development, it is vital that the UK, and especially the North East, sees investment to keep the manufacturing sector at the cutting edge of international expertise, developing innovative, efficient process, which safeguard the future of British industry.”

Chris McDonald, CEO of the Materials Processing Institute

Dr Colin Brown, Director of Engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said in response to the Autumn Statement:

“Today’s announcement of additional spending for transport, technology, energy and infrastructure, leaves one crucial part of the puzzle out: skills. All this funding, without the skilled people to deliver these projects, is like funding an empty shed. Government wants home-grown talent to deliver Research & Development, driverless cars and new energy infrastructure, but we just don’t have the sufficient engineers to deliver this. We have a shortage of key skills today and no clear plan on how to develop a skills pipeline for tomorrow. Government must face facts and outline a clear strategy to ensure the UK has the skills it needs for the economy to thrive.

Adrian Kemp, director at professional services and engineering consultancy, WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff in Leeds, commented: “I was pleased to hear the Chancellor’s re-affirmation of the status of the Northern Powerhouse and I believe that the committed infrastructure investment in the regions and the claim that devolution will be at ‘the heart of the Government’ is a positive step towards Transport for the North becoming the UK’s first sub-national transport body. The financial commitment to infrastructure is there, but to ensure they are taken forward we must see Northern cities being given more powers to make decisions and that investment organisations are given the green light to deliver devolution and see infrastructure projects of all sizes, through to completion. With the current economic uncertainty, we welcome this ambitious plan to invest in the UK’s infrastructure, which will provide the stability to increase market confidence and enhance the competitiveness of the North and the UK as an investable proposition.”

Adrian Kemp, director at professional services and engineering consultancy, WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff

His colleague Mark Hurley at WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff in Manchester added: “The £2.3bn Housing Infrastructure Fund is also a positive step in addressing the housing deficit in our region, but the Government will need to be clear in ensuring private and public sectors understand how to access this funding by creating clear commercial funding models for social infrastructure projects.”

Mark Hurley , WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff