Institution of Mechanical Engineers IMechE

The role of product innovation within the new manufacturing economy

15 June 2011

The government in its recent budget announced “we want the words ‘Made in Britain’, ‘Created in Britain’, ‘Designed in Britain’, ‘Invented in Britain’ to drive our nation forward”. This must surely be welcomed by anyone involved in industry. But is this a hollow chant from a government desperate for sources of growth in the wake of the recession, or does it mark a tidal change in thinking that will value manufacturing as a sustainable and founding sector of our economy?

After 30 years of indifference by successive governments, will our manufacturing industry be better supported by government policy and influence?

Since the belief in the 80s that the UK could prosper as a service economy, manufacturing industry has weathered European integration, the digital revolution, globalisation, emergence of the East and three recessions.

If you believed much of the media, you would not think manufacturing had survived. The reality is that what has emerged is vibrant and often world-class but altogether different. UK manufacturing is less easy to recognise without the association between what is UK-owned and what is seen to be making and employing in the UK. Manufacturing in either form continues to face challenges of resource, differentiation, sustainability, regulation and competition - needing to produce better products at lower prices despite higher costs.

Innovation is often upheld as a panacea to these issues. It once provided the foundation to much of UK industry and a competitive advantage for many decades. Graham explores how it can apply to the new manufacturing economy?

Can innovation, or ‘being innovative’, help our companies to be more competitive abroad and help domestic manufacturing and employment to grow? Being an overused term with such diverse meaning it stands a good chance - with a fresh breeze and a continuing favourable tide!

Meet the speaker:

Graham Lacy is technical director at PDD, one of the UK’s leading product innovation consultancies. Having graduated first as an engineer and then from the Royal College of Art, Graham spent his early career in UK industry followed by 20 years in innovation consulting, during which time he has led teams developing products for many start-ups, SMEs and global companies in the UK and overseas. Many of these are recognised in international awards including IDSA, Red-dot, RCA, DBA Design Effectiveness, I-DEA, IED and Millennium Products. Graham is a named inventor on over 30 separate patents, a chartered engineer and fellow of the RSA and the IED, where he is also a councillor.


Role Of Innovation

: Graham Lacey

Duration: 1 hour