The ongoing COVID-19 crisis, and related recession, represents one of the biggest shocks to the UK manufacturing ecosystem yet, and comes at a time when that ecosystem was already in a worrying situation after decades of deindustrialisation, a decade of austerity and an impending ‘Brexit’. The effects of this shock will also be unevenly felt due to the geography of the UK manufacturing ecosystem, amplifying the need for a successful response to ensure that places are not left further behind. This open access paper assesses the pre-COVID-19 ecosystem to ascertain the areas and industries likely to be particularly impacted by the crisis, and to understand existing issues.
Considerations for industrial strategies moving forward
These issues are important to consider, due to the implications for choosing strategies moving forward, for which two are appraised here. First, the reshoring of supply chains is considered in light of recent UK Government comments, but difficulties in implementation may arise due to the highly fragmented nature of UK policy frameworks. Second, an acceleration of the ‘grand challenges’ approach is likely but limited by issues of connectivity in the ecosystem and small and medium-sized firm disengagement. It is suggested that any strategies moving forward must strike a balance between such strategies.