RALF Speth, chief executive of Jaguar Land Rover, has said that despite a ‘chronic shortage’ of people going into science and engineering in the UK, advanced manufacturing should be at the heart of British industry and could help to cure its ‘economic ills’.
He was speaking at a dinner at Birmingham City Council House during a three-day conference organised by the British American Business Council, part of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Group.
He added that design, innovation and research and development would be critical for the success of the UK and the US.
“These value-creating advanced processes enable the company to adapt and to change as customer needs adapt and change,” said Dr Speth.
“The integration of technology, business, environmental and social best practice is vital for manufacturing companies to deliver to the customer today and deliver to the customer tomorrow.
“In certain sectors Britain is very good at this - defence, pharmaceutical and automotive – but it’s an area where it can learn lessons from abroad and in particular from the US,” he said.
“At JLR we have a very ambitious programme to develop about 40 new products over the next five years.
“This year alone we will invest around £3bn in the product creation process, making JLR the UK’s largest automotive research and development investor.”
He added that Jaguar Land Rover’s recovery was “proof that Britain still has the advanced manufacturing base that can compete on the world stage. We are a global success story driven from the heart of the country and our new plant being developed at Wolverhampton is proof of our commitment to the region.”
The other keynote speaker, business secretary Vince Cable, presented a robust defence against euro sceptics at the dinner, attended by 300 delegates from the US and UK.
He said one of the compelling reasons to stay in the EU was that the UK hosts more foreign companies than France, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands combined.
He added that the EU should not be blamed for creating the red tape that inflicts British business today. “Much regulation has not been created by Brussels – it’s largely what we have done ourselves,” he said.
“We have made the system complicated ourselves - not because of pressure from the Europeans.
Some of the regulation is over complicated but it’s not because of the EU.”