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2013: whither the UK economy?

07 December 2012

As we approach the end of the year, two contributors offer insights into the fortunes of the UK economy, currently beset by 'austerity' measures.

The most essential leadership skills in 2013 will be the ability to recognise and implement change quickly, writes Gary Wyles. Leaders need to plan for prosperity, but prepare for austerity, yet I question whether our leaders are adequately skilled to deliver such a programme.

In 2013, early economic indications in engineering are for growth, but with a volatile position in Europe, there is also uncertainty in whether this growth is sustainable. Our leaders therefore need to plan for both eventualities, yet recent research from my organisation shows that 63 percent of manufacturing and engineering organisations recognised a need to develop strategic skills amongst its leaders and only 32 percent felt that their leadership capabilities were adequate. This clearly shows a need for more training and development in leadership and, in such an ambiguous market, the necessity for rapid change may highlight this need more acutely.

Engineering companies have been well-versed in preparing for austerity over the last five years, but planning for prosperity, requires different skills and the ability to balance growth with adequate resources and investment, at the same time, our leaders need to recognise the tipping point for austerity and have a back-up austerity plan. This can only be achieved through detailed strategic planning and a change management programme which engages the whole organisation.

To be adequately prepared in 2013, leaders will need to: take time out of the business to strategise and delegate effectively in order to do so; identify key business indicators that will direct the most appropriate plan to take; drive change through prosperity and austerity; engage with the organisation so that employees understand the business plan and rationale for change; be open and honest about the state of play on a monthly or weekly basis; recognise areas of pain within an organisation and address accordingly; coach and mentor a pipeline of future leaders to help drive through organisational change

2013 is going to be a difficult year. Engineering firms need to ride the wave of growth, yet remain cautious and that can cause pain for any organisation if it does not get it right. Managing change can test even our most talented leaders to the limit, so organisations need to recognise this and ensure leaders are equipped with the necessary skills to see them through growth and austerity.

Gary Wyles is managing director, Festo Training and Consulting

Green technologies: the future of UK economic success
There are numerous contributing factors which shape the success of the economy, both on a national and international level, and it is ultimately up to the UK to determine its future prosperity on the word market, writes Evelyn Robinson. This is the sentiment that is being pushed out from government and industry advisers, who are formulating a long term plan to reposition the UK as a strong economic force once more.

In a recent report by the CBI it was noted that the strength of the UK economy in the future was going to be reliant on industries focusing on their strengths in order to become global leaders. Future stock market prices will reflect the dominance of the UK industries by the strength in their respective share prices, and this will boost economic progress.

It is all about the way in which UK manufacturing industries are perceived by other markets. This means that if the UK green technology sector makes plans now for their future development, and strives to become a world leader in the industry, the perception of market strength will improve. This perception is only a by-product of the plan, which will in itself strengthen the UK economy by virtue of the fact that a large scale cooperation and development of forward planning will create a positive interest in these industries and businesses.

If the UK is going to succeed in an unstable financial and economic recession, an industrial strategy that focuses on green technology and plays to the country’s strengths in this key sector, along with aerospace and automotive is essential.

Gearing all efforts towards these key areas could help the UK expand export opportunities that have the potential to garner in the region of £30bn by the year 2020, according to a report by the CBI that examines how the UK can maximise industrial opportunities.

But for this plan of action to come into fruition in time for the country to salvage their desperate state, the government would need to design, create and implement a world class environment in which businesses can operate.

We know that green technology is a sector that will continue to grow exponentially, but the question on everyone’s lips is whether the UK is going to be able to clean up its act and find the right approach to champion this key sector in time. This means that in moving forward the UK needs to set clear, achievable goals within the green sector, as well as stick to their carbon budgets, emission reduction targets and low carbon transition plans.

The most pressing issue of all is the rate at which the UK begins to capitalise on the green technologies sector; if we don’t get a move on, we will quickly fall behind. With countries all over the world, including China, South Korea, Germany and even the USA, already boosting their industrial infrastructure, we have no time to waste.

The impact of an industry-wide plan will be to create jobs, interest and innovation in a sector of the economy which is going to become more essential as time moves forward. There is no doubting that green technologies are becoming more and more valuable to businesses and industries alike, and by moving forward with a cohesive plan in mind, the UK economy can benefit greatly from this.

Stock prices for green technologies remain at a relatively low price in the current market, but if investors could see that this was going to be a boom industry in the UK (led by a concerted effort to make it one) the stocks would become instantly more valuable. This would benefit everyone involved, not least the businesses that are currently inventing and designing these technologies as their share value would rise dramatically.

Other countries are already developing industry wide plans for development and progression, and have been seeing positive results, so it is time that UK industries combined their thinking and ideas to ensure that, as a country, we are at the forefront of advancement in future years. Any stock savvy investors would do well to invest heavily in green technologies if they wish to get onboard before the prices rise dramatically and see a return on their investment.

Evelyn Robinson is a blogger, commentator and freelance writer

My thanks to Gary and Evelyn for their contributions to this week's newsletter.

Les Hunt

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