Manufacturers hope for bright year ahead

Nick Clegg and Vince Cable visit Ricardo in Shoreham
Nick Clegg and Vince Cable visit Ricardo in Shoreham

DESPITE a testing economic backdrop, manufacturers and engineering firms across the area remain upbeat about 2013, following a largely successful 2012.

That’s the assessment of the second annual SME Manufacturing Survey from Worthing-based accountants and tax advisers Carpenter Box. With other members of MHA (a UK wide group of independent accountants and business advisers), the firms surveyed 295 SMEs from a variety of sub-sectors within manufacturing and engineering. They found that growth predictions for the sector remain strong.

According to the overall results, intent to invest in research and development has increased by as much as 10 per cent versus 2012.

However, research and development spend remains low for the majority of respondents, with evidence to suggest that companies in the sector do not fully understand the definition of research and development, which means they are missing out on valuable tax breaks.

Despite some success with apprenticeships, there is a definite need to increase the appeal of working in the manufacturing and engineering sector, particularly in attracting students to graduate courses, as 58 per cent of respondents struggle to find employees.

Perceptions of bank funding have improved, but there is still a perceived lack of access to grants. Exporting remains key, with 71 per cent already exporting.

Last year’s survey saw 78 per cent of the industry predicting growth and 33 per cent anticipating growth of more than 10 per cent. The 2013 benchmarking survey revealed these predictions were accurate with 67 per cent of respondents reporting growth in 2012 and 33 per cent reporting growth of 10 per cent-plus. Chris Coopey, of Carpenter Box, said: “Early expectations for 2013 are optimistic, with SME manufacturers and engineers anticipating growth, which is vital if the sector is to play a role in reinvigorating and re-balancing the UK economy.”