‘We must work together to support advanced manufacturing’ – Call to region as NAAME conference begins

David Morgan, chief executive of MSF Technologies. Picture: Bethany Whymark.

David Morgan, chief executive of MSF Technologies. Picture: Bethany Whymark. - Credit: Archant

Advanced manufacturing and engineering is going to become an ever-more important sector in East Anglia – and the region's leaders must do what they can to support its expansion.

This is the key message espoused by speakers at a conference where businesses, the public sector and academics met to discuss how to tackle the technological and physical challenges in the industry.

Evolution: Journey into Industry 4.0 was organised by the New Anglia Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering group (NAAME) and host West Suffolk College, with speakers from Norfolk firms like Naked Element and MSF Technologies on the bill as well as figures from Innovate UK and global tech giant Huawei.

The conference was opened by Doug Field, chairman of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

He said the value of advanced manufacturing and engineering is already significant and growing fast.

It is worth an estimated £5bn to the local economy, employing 80,000 people in 6,000 businesses, with a growth rate and productivity growth rate more than 50% higher than the region's average.

'The LEP is ambitious for this sector. We recognise your value for attracting investment to the area,' he told the audience.

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'Where businesses cluster together, we can give them the physical and technological infrastructure that they need to grow. Clusters can also play a big part in ensuring the local industrial strategy.

'We need to work across sectors and geographical borders.'

Simon Coward, director of Hethel Engineering Centre, added there was a 'clear demand' for more space for advanced manufacturing and engineering businesses to expand.

'We need to be asking where else do we need to build, where does the next business or technology park need to be, where does there need to be incubation space,' he said.