Innovation a priority for North East firms, survey confirms

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North East manufacturers are in step with the rest of the UK for innovation, according to a new survey by the Engineering Employers’ Federation (EEF) and Vodafone UK.

The study’s findings suggest that firms in the regionare keeping pace with their peers elsewhere in the UK but share the same fears about falling behind competitors.

The survey shows that the main focus for North East manufacturers is on improving their products , a priority for 86 per cent of those asked, closely followed by improving their manufacturing processes (83 per cent). The biggest driver for manufacturing innovation is the wish to boost margins on existing products and services (65 per cent).

However, almost six in ten firms are motivated to innovate because they want to satisfy existing clients.

Developing existing domestic markets is a priority for 47 per cent of businesses, and the same percentage of firms are looking to exploit niche or specialised markets.

Liz Mayes, North East regional director for the EEF, said: “Manufacturers continue to forge ahead into new markets at home and abroad, with investment in innovation playing a starring role.

“However, innovation is a resource-hungry process, and manufacturers are finding that the results they achieve do not always match their ambition.

“Shortages of expertise, equipment and finance are holding them back.

“This matters for manufacturing and for the UK because manufacturers are increasingly concerned about falling behind competitors.

“We’ve seen, year after year, that manufacturers want to do more, and every additional pound invested in developing the products and services of tomorrow can help get the UK closer to its goal of having a more productive economy.

“This ambition should be matched by Government to ensure the UK continues to compete on the global stage.”

Tim Hancock, head of manufacturing at Vodafone UK, added: “It’s essential that we create the right environment for continuous innovation in manufacturing, which is the backbone of UK industry.

“The good news is that almost all manufacturers are innovating in one form or another and with a variety of business goals.

“It is well recognised that to keep pace with competitors both at home and globally, innovation is an essential ingredient.”