STUART PATRICK

Look up our official title and you will find it’s Glasgow Chamber of Commerce and Manufactures. It explains why we have always considered manufacturing essential to a growing economy, not least since Scotland depends upon it for over half our exports.

That in mind, there was a Scottish Government announcement in the lead up to Christmas that we considered an early present.

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The decision to invest £48m in a National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland (NMIS) at Inchinnan is a very welcome commitment to the nurturing of advanced manufacturing, both in Glasgow and Scotland as a whole.

The University of Strathclyde is adding a further £8m and, through City Deal funding, Renfrewshire Council will invest £39m. Together the partners will help a hefty Manufacturing Innovation Zone emerge next to Glasgow Airport, bringing in significant new private sector investment.

Locating NMIS at Inchinnan makes perfect sense. Strathclyde University is already operating the Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC) there, next door to Rolls Royce’s manufacturing plant.

I had the privilege of a guided tour around the AFRC recently, and it’s already demonstrating how to tackle Britain’s perennial problem of turning excellent academic research into commercial results.

At the AFRC, it’s all about advanced techniques in metal forming and forging. Its initial focus was on the aerospace industry but that is widening into a greater mix of engineering sectors. It shows what NMIS will be doing across a range of manufacturing techniques.

NMIS is the next step in delivering the Scottish Government’s Manufacturing Action Plan, one that Glasgow Chamber actively supports, and we have already made our own commitment to its delivery by putting our weight behind the growth of the circular economy.

The NMIS announcement is important for several reasons. It shows we are taking advanced manufacturing seriously, no longer believing that we can’t compete with economies with lower labour costs.

It insists we are serious about increasing Scotland’s rate of business research and development which, whilst improving, remains a lot lower than the UK average.

And it highlights at least one line of policy where there is some agreement between the UK and Scottish Governments.

The UK Government published its Industrial Strategy White Paper in November, and the AFRC happens to be one part of the UK’s network of advanced manufacturing centres.

Regrowing our manufacturing base will be that much easier if both governments can continue working together to make it happen.

Stuart Patrick is chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce.