A nation that doesn’t make things cannot be sustainable’

This was one of the leading headlines in The Daily Telegraph Business section on Monday 8th June, a quotation from one of Britain’s leading industrialists. Interviewed by journalist, Robin Pagnamenta, the former head of BP, Lord Browne of Madingley, set out a robust manifesto for manufacturing; arguing that it was “no coincidence that the nations that marshalled the strongest response to the [Covid] virus have been those with the best engineering pedigree.” Lord Browne continued: “Look at Germany. Because they had a very strong industrialised base in medical equipment and testing, they were able to do things others were not able to early on… It is scientists and engineers who hold the key to sustainable recovery – not politicians or businessmen.”

Referring to the idea that manufacturing is somehow “old-fashioned” and technology is all about “software”, the former scientific engineer (and head of BP’s exploration division in 1991) stated: “In industry we were all taught for many years the best way to run a business was low inventories and just-in-time manufacturing.” Now faced with the stresses of supply in a national crisis, he concluded: “We have to be selective and decide what is important to us and what is in the UK’s national resilience plan.” 


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