Monday, 16 March 2015

Industry Practice – UK Manufacturing – Renaissance and Revolution: 2015+ (Part 5)

The intention of the final portion of this lengthy web-log is to:

1. Summarise and contextualise the primary elements of Parts 1-4 content.
2. Affirm InnovateUK's findings (via the TSB) regards 'High Value Manufacturing'.
3. Highlight the probable need to explore sectors beyond the findings of the TSB.
4. Promote the need for broader commercialised Arts and Crafts, so balancing 3-D precision.

Thereafter, able to better strengthen and leverage British (and latterly Commonwealth) identity across worldwide markets.

Before doing so however, perspicuity dictates that one measure – the FX effect – of the UK's present international position be recognised.

Tempered Positivity -

With immense recapitalisation of the financial sector through central bank's purchase of sovereign bonds across the West in addition to historically low base rates and the utilisation of negative yielding bonds (under the spectre of possible re-deflation), the process of economic revitalisation has been underway.

Thus far positive results in the USA (ie improved Main Street employment), in the UK (ie low credit-risk mortgages and re-mortgages buoy transactions and housing construction) and so far in continental Europe - even if very early days – (ie improved Spanish reforms and boosted employment, the willingness of Greece to maintain its EU membership and so inevitably overcome the hard-line stance, and recognition by investors of the general global strength of blue-chip German corporates, now with pan-European investment impetus).

Conversely though, an ongoing issue under the radar - now re-highlighted by Mohammed El-Erian (himself now located 'centre-stage' in Germany) – is his latest soft mention regards the threat of global currency wars.

Whereas the US$ ironically maintained and indeed grew its FX strength under domestic QE (given reserve currency status), as has British Sterling to date, the programmes of Japan and now Europe have seen a very marked slide in currency strength; so gaining international competitive advantage within world trade.

This interestingly the more case versus the smaller MINTS and CIVETS players, instead of larger BRICs nations: specifically Brazil, Russia and to an extent China and India. These have likewise gained an FX advantage in the Euro-Japanese ilk because of relative: markets-induced local dynamics for the Real, sanctions-induced international depreciation for the Ruble, and policy-induced base-rate decline for Yuan and Rupee.

Thus today, very simplistically the US and UK remain 'high' (with declined export advantage), Europe, China and India remain 'mid' (semi-positive), whilst Brazil and Russia remain 'low' (very-positive).

Against this global backdrop, unlike the US' broad mid-value industrial spread with massive homeland B2B and B2C bases, the UK's reality of being 'dimensionally smaller', less well structurally balanced and with greater export exposure in products and services (esp to still slow EU) therefore means that the negative FX effect is potentially far more damaging.

So whilst domestically the FTSE 100 appears stronger (albeit lagging other indices given its 'constituent weighting'), credit flows are much improved and the all important housing market has grown in volume (even if slowed YoY applications growth), the UK's orientation within the broader global picture must be of concern.

Back to the prime intention of this web-log...

A Much Shifted Western World -

The essay pertaining to the much required “Renaissance and Revolution” of British manufacturing in started with the widely held presumption that having created and eventually exhausted “Capitalism 1.0” that the West now faced a testing future of very possibly managed decline as prime investor focus continues to be targeted at the slowed but ongoing immense economic expansion across the broad EM world.

To combat this hypothesis a sense of “Capitalism 2.0” would need to be created – itself invariably entwined with all things cyber and eco – to address this concern, either by effectively managing structural decline so as to maintain certain living standards for most, or obviously preferable, the ability to re-raise overall standards for the Western populace having experienced the socio-economic backlash of previously collapsed capitalism.

The required leap-frog from Capitalism 1.0 into version 2.0 has thus far been viewed as reflected by the ongoing shift away from the previous traditional industrial economy focused upon the mass production of 'tangible' (consumer durable) goods and associated services, (with critically the ideals of private consumption and ownership), toward the apparent ideal a post-industrial 'knowledge' driven economy, which itself appears increasingly 'intangible' as the existences of commerce and human cognitive interaction becomes ever more web-connected.

However, as exemplified, whilst investment-auto-motives undoubted recognises the power of the ongoing and transformational re-orientation of the UK, and likewise echoes many of the recommendations furnished by InnovateUK (as identified by the former Technology Strategy Board) for expansion of “High Value Manufacturing”, investment-auto-motives seeks to also highlight the fact that the hand-crafted – in recognition and esteem – should also play a more substantial role onto the future; especially so given the diversity of output and the requirement for portions of the vocational labour-force to become more multi-skilled.

Only by encompassing all four aspects of a) Cyber-connectivity b) Eco-relativity c) Aligned HVM and d) Co-existant “3D precision meets Arts-Crafts”, will British manufacturing once again re-affirm itself as both technically relevant and human centric.

From Here to Eternity -

Wherein “consumer experiences” are orchestrated from the outputs of ever more aligned services and products. Services and products which themselves are increasingly conceived and born from the 'big data', itself accumulated from what is essentially surveyed and monitored human / consumer behaviour patterns.

Such cyber-enabled data gathering, analysis and procured insights deployed to build and constantly feed the goal of “intelligent networks”. Which in turn allows much of that which is the man-made physical to be potentially increasingly autonomous, directed ethereally via the efficiency optimised “internet of things”. Effectively, the deployment of super-computing capabilities - across either shared networks or central systems - to sustain eco-social equilibrium; with a likely desire also for socio-economic equilibrium. This ideology underpinned by the need to better contain the negative impact of broad human activity upon the climatic and environmental systems of “Gaia” / “Mother Earth”.

A critical part of this balanced ideal appears to be the notions of not only reduced per capita "carbon footprints”, but possibly intrinsically the outcome an ecologically orientated “shared economy”, wherein the aligned activities of individuals operating in sync as a group thereby lesson the level of individual ecological impact.

[NB It should be recognised that 'libertarian' naysayers, who themselves view the rights, responsibilities and free-will core to 'individualism', view such possible grouping of society as a “back door” slippery-slope to firstly collectivism, thereafter socialism and eventually full-blown communism].

Over(t) 'Californiacation' ? -

EM regions obviously continue to seek economic growth via largely conventional, well proven methods. Thereby ostensibly replaying in a copy+ manner the expansive multi-sector industrialisation model of the 20th century; whilst also involved in the mass-volume production and associated services of those lower-value elements of the higher value 21st century productivity chain).

Yet even though the West was seen to be heavily economically damaged in 2008, and today seeks to slowly restrengthen, Information Technology with its wide array of inherent fields (from neuro-computing to free apps development) continues to be promoted by the media as the stand-out core competence; one which effectively continues the ongoing promise of “the shape of things to come”.

As is wholly obvious, the West in this instance is more specifically typically those Californian mega-corps with 'fortress balance sheets' and their ever expanding world-wide outposts.

That connected cyber future to be achieved using those highly powerful installations (the networks and servers which form 'the cloud'), and the various near monolithic social-media and professional-networking platforms, which came of age around about 2008, social submersion increased via screen-based apps.

The technocrats of California have then effectively created a virtual sociological core, into which a notionally 'brave new world' of cyber-physical innovation may plugged.

Critics may well convey that just as Copernicus recognised that the earth actually revolves around the sun, and not vice versa as religious orthodoxy stated, so the all powerful and much deified eco-hipster-technocrat corporations of Silicon Valley seek to have humanity's economic solar system revolve around their star-like corporate interests. In this regard critics state that the apparent star actually operates more like the vortex of an external energy-sucking black-hole.

How this reality continues to play-out remains to be seen, one example being the tension between Google and Apple regards the future of autonomous cars relative to the interests of conventional car manufacturers.

It is of course an expected case of the snow-ball effect, with the roll-out, implementation and acceptance of 'smart' products within a renewed 'smart' built-environment.

However, the socio-economic digestion of such a massive undertaking is complex, problematic and so inevitably slow over the near and medium term; at least relative to media-hyped public perception. The very pace of such societal refurbishment made doubly painful given the near decimation in 2008/9, the corporate reaction toward cash conservation, cautious investment spending, the budgetary limitations of central and local governments, this only counter-balanced by recently improved consumer spending.

When taken as read, it seems that investment spending will be historically muted, so as to correlate strictly with profitability rates in all but highest growth companies and sectors. Thus behind the headlines in reality slowing the pace of progress into such a cyber-enabled future, and at best putting such advances predominantly in the hands of the biggest 'fortress' companies.

Critically, there is the question regards mass adoption of specific technical standards by which all encompassing 'smart system(s)' would operate. Whilst the example of competing electric vehicle charging infrastructures and the responsibilities of various agents is not a direct parallel, it may be similar enough to demonstrate how the lack of multi-party agreement, cohesion and stand-offs, highlights possible trouble ahead for what may likely be even syndicated 'smart-system' interests; as each philosophically aligned party seeks to gain marginal or even full control.

Managing Mass Expectations -

Never before in the West has the future horizon looked so provisionally utopian, yet the present so felt so immediately dystopian, given the very real socio-economic pains and fractures of western populations.

Today governments, NGOs (community groups, religious groups etc) and corporations have a much increased responsibility to pro-actively (yet as subtly as possible) manage their respective North American and European populations, to avoid further general descent and anger, and instead promote a type of futurism.

Whilst most have simply sought to rely on the slow economic recovery to eventually work its expected alleviation, there have been high level efforts such as the UK's Conservative Party's “Common Purpose” ideology amongst leadership groups; something which looks likely to be further deployed into wider society if the Tories / Coalition win the up-coming election.

Steering any mass populace has never been simple, the West today with much increased horizontal and vertical fragmentation affecting even the once homogeneous middle ground. Singular national identity has been replaced with “mosaic societies” derived from not simply increased ethnic mix, but the promotion of typically bite-sized 'identity politics', whether based upon gender, ethnicity, personal 'values', geographic location, etc). This itself may prove to be both problematic and helpful when considering how socio-economic interaction may evolve. Critically, in this cynical age it could well be that innate 'tribalism' – assisted by social media, so creating the not so oxymoronic “mass clique” in a global village – which provides part of the foundation for the new economic future.

In The Meantime... -

The western world then must wait a good while for that wholly physically inter-connected utopian society of carbon-neutral eco-efficiency to become reality.

In the meantime it will be the technical and commercial progress of seemingly all too conventional goods and services companies which - after the re-booting of capitalism through QE and special fiscal measures – will be in the primary driving seat of socio-economic improvement.

Furthermore, it is an oft unrecognised irony being that such 'advanced' countries, will invariably adopt the ready-made and proven intelligent-network systems from EM regions, ranging from African M-PESA mobile banking to Singaporean 'intelligent roadways' to Rio de Janeiro's 'pan-optican planning screen'. Such technologies continuing to be 'imported' as base systems as the west creates its own relevant B2C and B2B cyber-products.

So for the meantime, future prosperity essentially relies upon those conventional activities contained within that which was previously stated as Phase 1 and Phase 2 economic reconstruction.

Phase 1: (2010 - 2020)
Conventional infrastructure refurbishment and new build.
Primarily targeting: transportation (road, cycle-routes, rail and airports), housing (market-price led and “affordable”) and continued implementation of fast-speed communications networks (standard 3G with 4 and even 5G aspiration). Expansion of already in-situ 'basic intelligent networks' (eg expansion of Thames Crossing's DART toll system].

Phase 2: (2015 - onward)
Strengthening of 'de-facto' service and manufacturing sectors and companies.
Primarily enabled through the BoE's ongoing surpression of base interest rates, so encouraging investment, improved lending levels by banks, ongoing optimism in financial markets regards credible IPOs, and availability of alternative funding routes (from private equity to better regulated 'crowd-funding') for those firms that wish to access external expertise and customer input.

[NB The latter highlighting the re-creation of group-centric micro-economies; somewhat akin to a mixture of the mid 19th century Co-operative movement in Britain, and Berkshire Hathaway's early years 'virtuous circle' local investment regime in Omaha, Nebraska, USA).

Thereafter (previously unmentioned)..

Phase 3: (2020 - onward)
Introduction of truly integrated 'intelligent systems', some directly imported from previously tried and tested regions and locals, with the necessary up-grading of in-situ systems to further improve data provision, hone feed-back loops and ultimately improve systems efficiency. The target of a wholly integrated improvement programme effecting both the micro-system level (eg local cycle-route flows) and the macro-system level (national and even intra-continental power generation and storage).

Phase 4: (2025 - onward)
Mass introduction of 'smart appliances' at personal, domestic, commercial and possibly new "socio-corporation" levels. Although smart-phones and certain smart-wear will have been long established as “personal enablers” operating essentially independently, this new generation of cyber-enabled electrical and electro-mechanical devices (and associated software) will have been developed in parallel with the evolution of society's 'intelligent networks', and so far more integrated.

[NB the emergent "socio-corporation” the hybridised outcome of the increased CSR ethos in private companies, the new trend for 'identity tribalism' (increasingly brand led and co-opted) and the increased need for 'zero-based budgeting' by central and local government. The "socio-corporation" then somewhat akin to the cost-conscious public good practice of Victorian, Edwardian and Georgian “corporations”, and today seen by the 'campus' model of the IT sector].

As regards the urgency of today, although the internet is cognitively and socially absorbing...from the social milieus of Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, to service apps such as Uber (taxi), BusChecker, Ecodrive (from the AA), JustEat et al, aswell as the vast range of media-linked apps spanning the Financial Times to The Daily Mirror and far beyond...inevitably, whilst these are being gradually 'monetised', many western economies must rely upon the resuscitation of conventional goods and services sectors.

The UK obviously included.

Manufacturing “Re-Gen”(eration) -

It is now well recognised as a historical footnote that Britain's old 'smokestack' industries – of the “conventional growth era” - had decades ago been inevitably overtaken by global competition, either eradicated into speedy decline, indefinitely 'moth-balled' or taken-over by far better placed foreign interests. If the 1970s were the last vestiges of 'smoke-stack', as well described, the 1980s were the watershed of a new post-industrial 'Communications Age' which itself was a key function of the emergent 'Knowledge Economy'.

Nonetheless at this critical 1980s juncture, although the prime activities of mass manufacturing industries per se were seen to become much diluted, it was also recognised that the mid and high value capabilities which had been honed to previously feed UK mass manufacture were themselves still of value, albeit at a comparatively lower open market rate for firms and their staff than had been the case before, given the overall drop in the UK capital market's esteem of manufacturing. Nevertheless, the previously provided example of the Nissan Technical Centre in Bedfordshire, largely paid for by foreign direct investment (FDI). However, such seemingly reverential engineering centres – as with also Ford and Vauxhall - highlighted the beginnings of a new oxymoron in what was still viewed externally as high-value US/UK Engineering. This being the increased differentiation between specific discipline expertise for specialist engineering tasks at the practical MSc and PhD level, the necessary cost rationalisation of dedicated 'in-house' vehicle systems teams, and the project budgeting need to outsource the lowest-value “bums on seats” tasks to newly dedicated sector entrants such as MSX International.

Hence, with the UK capital market's focus elsewhere in financial services, telecoms, IT, retail, general services and housing, it was wholly unsurprising that the UK should experienced a very long bout of general manufacturing and so engineering disinterest.

In comparison to Japan or Germany's economic vision wherein ever better product quality would enable manufacturing to remain a strong economic pillar, able to stand proud, grow technical and managerial career strands and critically well reward its stakeholder participants, the UK experienced waves of disenchantment.

Instead, automotive management and engineers involved in original concept, project development and manufacturing, with ironically necessarily greater skills than their well paid predecessors, felt themselves under-valued and over-worked in a sector which was increasingly scratching-out its existence. As 'mass' turned to 'niche' it would be the entrepreneurial owners of high-value entities, often in the hallowed arena of motor-sport, who risk much but also gain good returns, with the likes of Tom Walkinshaw at TWR or David Richards at Prodrive becoming the lauded UK auto-industry men of the 1980s and 1990s. (Richards eventually utilising his wealth to become a part-owner in Aston Martin in its modern era).

Formulating the Progressive “Phase 2” -

The desperate need for 'Renaissance and Revolution' of Britain's manufacturing base, so as to serve as a fundamental cornerstone of national economic strength, was recognised, even prior to 2008. At long last, after what seemed 20 years of indifference, those voices which long stated the requirement to strengthen physical productivity (both in homegrown and FDI forms) once again gained the attention of Whitehall, successive governments and eventually the public.

With 'low' and 'mid' value manufacturing firmly engrained as core to the EM growth agenda, Britain (along with western Europe) rightly seeks to continue along the 'High Value Manufacturing' pathway.

[NB Interestingly, the highly practical and vocational nature to portions of the USA's economy, especially prevalent in home DIY and engineering hobbies (typically autos), meant that it maintained much of the 'mid-value' engineering base].

As for the UK and western Europe, today conjoined 'Megatrends' forces, including: globalisation, ecological awareness and the ambition to improve length and quality of life, means that the know-how once deployed upon narrow band applications of specific niche interests are (albeit slowly) being increasingly applied into new arenas. This through the necessary scaling-up of technology transfer in order to provide various new solutions for new markets.

Defining a New Era -
The TSB and Innovate UK

As well detailed in Part 2, Whitehall luminaries recognised that Britain would better protect itself if it were to re-balance the inputs and outputs of the overall economy. This realisation after the painful consequences of the 1999 dotcom crash, the much increased national economic reliance on the much elevated prices of UK property, the correlated trend for (over)extended credit, the previous major (over)expansion of the public sector [non wealth generating bureaucracy] and critical recognition that (unlike Germany, Japan, S.Korea) Generations 'X and Y' had less and less broad technical capability.

A re-balancing was in order which would seek to amend the generational loss of associated global competitiveness, and importantly to leverage the much under-valued, yet highly expert, technical base that remained.

As seen, the Technical Strategy Board was formed, consisting primarily of business leaders, technical experts and aligned academics, to undertake broad analysis of:

1. an audit UK's overall technical standing.
2. the realms and added-value of its commercialisation (ie productivity)
3. the sectorial and combined global financial value of specialist manufacturing
4. an audit of the existing potential within research and development centres
5. the reasons for typical failures in commercialising research and development
6. how to overcome commercialisation barriers.
7. identification of the most lucrative high- potential sectors for commercialisation

In summary the TSB recognised the prime cause of research and development business exploitation failure to be the apparent vacuum of support which typically occurs in the higher-risk middle-ground stage of scaling-up', between start-up and market commercialisation stages. Colloquially called the 'Death Valley” effect.

This to be overcome with provision of government assistance, these funds provided through independent “non-government public bodies” to retain impartiality.

The topic the TSB recognised as the most promising routes forward (with focal regions) were:

- Transport Systems (Milton Keynes)
- High Value Manufacturing (Strathclyde, Wilton, Rotheram, Ansty, Coventry, Bristol)
- Satellite Applications (Harwell)
- Offshore Renewable Energy (Glasgow)
- Connected Digital Economy (London)
- Future Cities (London)
- Bio-Sciences (London)
- Advanced Materials (tbc)
It is now four and a half years ago, on 11.10.2011, that InnovateUK announced the opening of the first of seven dedicated centres for High Value Manufacturing. These being:
- Advanced Forming (University of Strathclyde)
- Advanced Manufacturing Research (University of Sheffield)
- Process Innovation (Wilton and Sedgefield)
- Manufacturing Technology (Coventry)
- Composites (Bristol)
- Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing (University of Manchester and Sheffield)
- Manufacturing Group (University of Warwick)

High Value Manufacturing -
The TSB plotted the following disciplines, so as to highlight their individual potential for future comercialisation.  as offering a range potential futures, relative to: 1. the intensity of research required vs 2. the global growth potential.

1. Pharmaceutical (rated: high vs high)
2. Aerospace (rated: high vs high)
3. Computers (rated high vs mid)
4. Electronics (rated high vs mid)
5. Optical (rated: high vs mid)
6. Transport [all forms] (rated: mid vs high)
7. Chemicals (rated: mid vs mid)
8. Equipment (rated: mid vs mid)
9. Vehicles (rated: mid vs mid)
10. Parts (rated: mid vs mid)
11. Electrical (rated: mid vs mid)
12. Food and Drink (rated: low vs high)
13. Standard Metals (rated: low vs mid)
14. Games (rated: low vs mid)
15. Print (rated: low vs mid)
16. Plastics (rated: low vs mid)
17. Fossil Fuels (rated: low vs low)

Furthermore 5 Key Themes were identified:

1. Aligning technologies against scarcity of energy and commodities
2. Creation of more effective and efficient manufacturing systems
3. Innovative products gained via integration of materials, coatings. Electronics with other technologies
4. Creation of new, agile, cost-effective manufacturing processes
5. The above deployed via new business models.

As seen, given their research complexity and size of potential future markets, it is Pharmaceuticals, Aerospace which are viewed as offering the highest potential rewards, followed by Computers, Electronics, Optical, in turn followed by the Vehicle sector, then inevitably by Food and Drink.

The first of these within Bio-Sciences. Besides being critical to life-saving and life-improvement, has high barriers to entry regards expertise and funding, with a very stratified market-place. Low-cost, low price vs mass appeal drugs (eg 'Aspirin') to mid-price, medium appeal of consumer orientated drugs (eg 'Viagra') to the the potential for high price, very targeted breakthrough drugs for specific treatments (eg cancers). Bio-Sciences at one end of the spectrum potentially reach a global population of 7 billion people, a high percentage of which already have a form of access to basic items like Aspirin even in rural areas, and at the other end of the spectrum, has ongoing research into DNA generated 'personally tailored solutions' (for a broad spectrum of ailments that could be directly targeted without side-effects).

Likewise Aerospace offers much potential. This relative to both conventional sub-stratosphere, sub-sonic travel – ie today's realm – which will continue to focus upon fuel cost savings, optimum passenger capacity sizes, fuselage architectures (such as the periodically touted 'windowless' option) and of course proactive and reactive safety solutions; all for a travel market that is set to grow massively due to the demands of the burgeoning new EM middle classes. There will also no doubt be a return to super-sonic flight with possibly China leading the way (very probably with a western development partner, so improving upon past, proven technologies). Plus the reach into beyond the stratosphere, past the boundary of inner space where fight dynamics alter massively, and offer the potential for very much reduced long-distance flight times.

Automotive HVM -

However, it is the “mid vs mid” value topics of General Transport, Vehicles and Parts which obviously interest investment-auto-motives.

It must be recognised that although “on paper” these disciplines appear to offer lower relative potential value – given that inherent technologies are more easily replicable by foreign nations – the fact is that the billions of people who live in (the long list of) EM and Pioneer nations will expect their own version of the “C20th American Dream”, many already having witnessed it. Herein even a small slice of that massive potential for general transport, vehicles and their requisite parts will yield enormous rewards for those able to provide the primary differentiators of: Cost, Quality and Speed (to Market).

Of course, EM nations have continued to replicate the design and production systems of conventional vehicles, typically buying-in foreign platforms – as seen by China's re-use of saloon architectures from the past remnants of Rover and previous generation bases from FIAT (Alfa Romeo). But they also recognise that there is a much reduced but still significant engineering skills gap between domestic talent and western capabilities. Maintaining this gap then is viewed as crucial to western firms. Thus EM nations typically then recognise the need to conjoin efforts with foreign major OEMs, manufacturers, and engineering consultancies so as to both gain domestic competitive advantage on home-ground and to be able to eventually pitch their vehicles beyond similarly placed EM nations and toward the high margin potential of North America, Europe, Japan, South Korea and Australia-New Zealand.

Hence, Britain's auto-engineering agenda aimed at maintaining the technology gap (together with Triad nations) whilst simultaneously assisting EM auto-producers to grow strategically. The essential elements of the UK's engineering hardware, control systems software and high profile PR, seen as all contained in the global promotional vehicle that is UK motorsport.

[NB These but a few of the contemporary strands of Britain's current and future “economic-engineering” ambitions; though its expansion continues to be from an auto-centric base. (see 'New Era HVM' below)].

Yet there may also be opportunities for additional “white space” thinking (in those gaps between normative practice) which might offer new opportunities for disruptive products and technologies (beyond the obvious and often impractical EV), items very possibly dedicated to the specific needs of a particular EM nation or region, and replicable elsewhere.

Hence the “mid vs mid” position of Automotive should be recognised as potentially offering far more than typically recognised “on paper”.

Automotive “HVM” in Historical Context -

As seen previously, British endeavour in 'Advanced Automotive' has been forthcoming since the first cars were imported in the 1890s from Germany and France, copied and improved.

From this start-point on, vehicle manufacturing was by its very definition “HVM”, from the bespoke creation of expensive limousines by Daimler-GB, Lanchester, Rolls-Royce et al, through to the sizeable margins available to the successful entrepreneur of entry-levl commercial and private “runabouts”, such those by Auto Carriers (later AC Cars), Morgan Motors and others. Success went to those with either: the most reliable products, powerful advertising, lowest per unit costs, or the deepest pockets (so as to effectively buy market share).

Yet by the 1920s the race for brand differentiation was on, achieved via performance enhancing, and convenience creating, applied technologies was on. The Continent, the UK and USA in rounds of one-upmanship, applying innovations from the associative fields of aeronautics (construction and super-charging), electric generation (improved lighting, magnetos vs alternators) and oil and petro-chemicals (improved lubrication and combustion).

However, the modern definition of “HVM” came with the likes of France's lightened and quality improved Weimann-type body construction on the chassis based cars of the '20s, Germany's use of exotic metals (eg magnesium) in the early '30s on Auto-Union's Grand Prix cars, Italy's application of 'Superleggera' tubular space-frame construction from the late '40s onwards for Italian GT cars, and later prestigious international clients, and America's use of mass-production fibre-glass from the late '50s (pioneered by GM's Corvette).

Britain likewise always progressively experimented. But critically with industrial sectors effectively governed by risk-averse City grandees, it was more typically the financier's mindset which dominated, especially so in matured or diminishing markets.

The City understandably preferred to undertake conventional and assured measures, to seek out marginal product or market opportunities, to drive down costs (supplanting labour with capital equipment and creating inter-firm alliances). And as specific market segments grew or conversely became saturated, to prompt the desire for mergers and acquisitions (then called “consolidations”) to either gain greater future reward or conversely 'right-size' to reduced market demand.

So even by the 1930s, after the car's meteoric 30 year rise and the sector's plunge amid the Great Depression,  it was viewed by many that there was undeniably better investment value in the competitive rationalisation of providers to a specific market size (effectively monitored oligopolies), than in trying to organically grow a firm to become dominant purely through possibly “hit or miss” innovation.

Innovation was undoubtedly useful, but seemingly best applied during a mass-market sector's growth and stabilisation stages, or otherwise in very specific segments and circumstances.  

This British backdrop of viewing innovation as simply one element of privateer-led commercialism was the antithesis of the innovatory advances made under state-backed nationalism, indeed jingoism, of Germany. With an internationalist economic agenda, the very much left-leaning National Socialist German Worker's Party (termed 'Nazi Party') provided massive state-backed funding to German motorsport prior to WW2, so as to try and regain its place in the global economic order. The outcome was the technically advanced and near all-conquering "Silver Arrows".

In this realm, Britain's technical advancement story then was predominantly the creation of 'home garage' motor-sport specials (such as Issigonis's “Lightweight Special”) that provided learning. It was not the funding of government, nor often that of companies , which promoted technical achievement. But that of self-funding, or at best part-funded, individuals who given their passions were working in the UK motor industry, and it was this ostensibly this process which enabled the eventual technology trickle-down into frames, engines and suspensions. A slow process then from the birth of garage 'specials', through the maturation of niche production on sportscars and eventually into the mass application of mainstream road cars.

It was only when macro-economic shock threatened that Britain took note of the power of innovation. Most obviously, when the Suez Crisis prompted the UK popularity of German-made bubble cars, which in turn forced Leonard Lord to give Issigonis product and engineering 'carte blanche': leading to the Mini. 

Interestingly, as company and client budgets permitted, it was in the perhaps more surprising vehicles of buses and trucks which saw 'step-change' efforts through materials, construction methods, powertrains and even the whole-scale production and refurbishment processes and facilities.

By the 1930s also there were instances of high aluminium content coaches (eg AEC-Daimler CF6) in the bid to further reduce the running costs of road transport operators, and so reduce ticket fares for users, over the popularity of rail. And in the 1960s the 'Chinese Six' wheel configuration (of two steering axles at the front) became popular, so as to provide better weight distribution across the laden chassis and to provide improved “posi-steering” in the wet. (This format seen again in 1970s Grand Prix with the Tyrell P34). And of course the Routemaster bus which allowed for over half a century of sustainable public transport service, achieved through: 'blank sheet' design-work, indepth development, prototyping and testing, component standardisation, 'preventative maintenance' schedules, inter-changeable refurbishment, and end-of-life 'run-down' recycling.

But it has been in the field of motorsport that Britain is renowned for championing progressive applications. All aluminium structures, hybrid metal and composite structures, mixed composites through stress-specific thermo-sets and thermo-plastics), and in the early 1980s the UK-US joint effort break-through of carbon fibre.

Importantly although the efforts of domestic names such as Pomeroy, Cooper, Chapman and later Newey are known to varying degrees by the public, these men were infact much complemented by highly effective contributions made from colonial “immigrants” such as Ron Tauranac, Bruce McLaren and Gordon Murray, and likewise by “aliens” like Alec Issigonis and John Barnard. So demonstrating the vital importance of foreign sourced potential and expertise for overall British gain.

Materials and methods first seen on the race-track and hill-climb were adopted as soon as practicable for low volume, high performance road cars. Advanced applications which spanned a broad price spectrum from the simplicity of Austin 7 derived DIY cars, to the likes of the 1958 TVR Jomar-Grantura and eventually through to the complexity and prowess of the 2014 McLaren P1.

As the popularity of Grand Prix grew from the 1960s onward, with the gain of massive TV audiences in the 1970s and thereafter, so associated engineering companies sought to grow their income streams and broad commercial influence. Doing so as both producers of proprietary and/or client sportscars, via the licensing of their own brands as 'halo-effect' sub-brands for various mainstream car manufacturers (eg Lotus, Brabham and later Williams), but importantly as consulting engineering agencies to VM, OEMs and externally elsewhere.

These firms whilst obviously auto-centric given their roots, recognised the need, and so creating constant ambition, to diversify knowledge and services palette into other sectors' engineering realms, so as to counter-act the cyclical effects of domestic and regional economies.

Periodic "Technical Show-Boating" -

From the long-view perspective then, it appears that during those periods when the UK has perhaps recognised a loss of comparative global grasp, it undertakes feats of technical show-boating. Ever since the ambition to retain its role as the world's leading global economic force in the mid 1800s, so the country's desire to be recognised as a technical leader has inversely grown in comparison with its slowly diminished international trading presence. Ships, trains, automobiles and planes have been radically re-imagined; from Brunels "iron-clad steamer" (SS Great Britain) in 1845, to the aforementioned super-sonic Concorde; even if that process has been financially problematic as the process of meeting new high level challenges is itself often fraught with complexity.    

Given this desire to "go beyond", expectantly (as with its American cousin) Britain has had a fascination, indeed near obsession, with world record attempts. Most notably the land speed record.

In the prime of the 'Boys Own' era from the 1930s to mid 60s Malcolm Campbell's efforts in various land and water “Bluebirds” reflected national pride and ambition. The CN7 car was a highpoint for convention wheel-driven machines, to which the 'man on the street' could relate given the seemingly related mechanics of the family car.

After 20 years of American domination in jet/rocket powered machines Britain returned to conquer with the jet propelled Thrust 2 in 1983 (driven by Richard Noble) and turbo-fan propelled Thrust SSC in 1997 (with Andy Green).

A New Era of “HVM” -

In a spirit of “ever onward”, today the Bloodhound SSC project seeks to use both jet and rocket propulsion to reach 1000mph...a massive leap forward if indeed achievable. Yet an arguably equally important...if not more important...parallel 'thrust' of the project, is the hope to introduce and enthuse teenagers into the world of engineering, so as to critically re-strengthen national capabilities.

[NB this recently re-profiled by the Financial Times' video section].

Although the role of research and development has been well recognised an an inherently important aspect of automotive engineering, with concomitant historic strand, that strand has been unfortunately far too 'thin' over recent decades. Over-shadowed by the socio-economic influence of other wealth generating sectors; made manifold by their logical previous propensity to draw investment and talent away from those physically productive industries.

Now at the point in western history when “designing the future” has become a social and economic imperative, it is perhaps worthwhile revisiting the original tenets of the then newly emerged automotive sector over a century ago.

The four driving forces behind it, and its innovations, were (in chronological order):

1. Commercialisation (business and public)
[substitution of the horse thru' new 'disruptive' technology]
2. Sporting competitiveness (domestically and internationally)
3. Military might thru' increased mechanisation.
4. Opportunistic product and technology transfer.

Today, nigh-on 130 years on and in the 21st century, the term 'Advanced Automotive' has a very different tenor. Its varied niche disciplines in the 'pure' realms have sought to philosophically revisit the exploratory engineering efforts of those Victorian and Edwardian hopefuls.

But equally, those 130 years have also seen the most practical solutions become profitable business models in mainstream markets. The convenience and convention of the internal combustion engine (of varying cubic capacity and emissions output, dependent on specific national tax regime) powered typically by refined fossil fuels (but also where practicable, renewable fuels). This historic mass market norm largely favourable to the mass populace and to government's seeking tax receipts, than the present general impracticality of alternative fuels, largely because of the 'non-holistic' and partly unrealistic approach by many proponents in regard to critically aligned vehicle engineering and aligned re-fueling infrastructure build.

This especially the case for the vast majority of economically ambitious EM and Pioneer nations who recognise the proven social and commercial might of the internal combustion engine to date, and the national development might of creating an oil affiliated economy, with a plethora of upstream and downstream activities generating wealth.

Thus ongoing debate and innovatory prompts continue regards the personal and mass transport templates for notionally 'advanced' vs 'emerging' countries and regions. Inevitably a (pun intended) case of “horses for courses”.

Within the realms of pragmatic possibility, the west seeks to promote itself as not only the 'thought leader' in ecological matters, but also as viable, demonstrate that words can be translated into eco-conscious action. Done so by using technical innovation to re-align the 'cost-benefit' equation of various fields, most obviously regards the CO2 output of its commercial buildings, industrial plants, general transport (road, rail and shipping) and domestic habitation.

Obvious then to highlight that this ambition, as driven by formalised but oft ethereal treaty ratification or not, through to the actuality of achieved 'parts per billion' of air quality targets.

“High Value Manufacturing” in the automotive sense, then spans much, from the provision of incremental and leap-frog “public good” technology solutions and accordant social gains, right through as seemingly a polar opposite goal, the ability to provide the often esoteric and rarefied needs, wants and desires of cosseted 'High Net Worth' individuals.

Yet these two worlds are not necessarily so far apart.

Partly achieved by the once very distant, but now increasingly complementary, synergistic relationship between specialist niche and mass-manufacture technologies.

[NB The watershed example of the large Ford F-150 pick-up truck, now with a much mass-reduced aluminium body, a very good example. (I appears likely that Ford will further introduce the material both up and down its product ladder, gradually into trucks and buses and into cars, from large to small, aligning production process as possible].

designing for various motor-sports (FIA rules applied to F1, newer Formula-E, WRC, RallyCross etc) and “Eco-Manufacture”. The former co-opts any relevant systems and whole vehicle basis for transposition into the eco-sphere. Whilst the latter seeks to typically 'push the envelope' regards propulsion systems, build architectures and original concepts.

As such it has meant that even over the past 25 (relatively lean) years of funded research, Britain's development impetus has stretched across a wide spectrum; examples of which were previously provided.

F1's inclusion of KERS (Kinetic Energy recovery) technology (able to regenerate on-board super-capacitors and batteries) is so well absorbed by many people, that such topics are no longer simply the domain of pub-bore petrol-heads. (Here the social impact of the Toyota Prius should be thanked). Indeed, the now well established use of light eco-tech on mainstream cars, such as 'stop-start' systems (sometimes disingenuously known as “mild hybrids”), means that even the most technologically ignorant motorist now often has a conscious affiliation to advanced eco-tech.

[NB although small in series production vs conventional siblings, the specific eco-variants of models from Nissan's Sunderland plant, Honda's Wiltshire plant, Toyota's Derbyshire plant and BMW's Oxford (Mini) plant, have each contributed to that consciousness]. 

Even though oft over-shadowed by IT's near monopolisation of things considered technically progressive, 'Advanced Automotive' has been relatively quiet, yet also powerfully demonstrated its role as a guiding light towards a future involving a far higher profile for 'High Value Manufacturing'.

Examples of advances made since the turn of the millennium span:

1. Aston Martin's use of its much applauded adaptable aluminium VH platform architecture, central to the “tiered vehicle volumes” business model providing its own renaissance and autonomy (itself now updated for newer models, the Lagonda Taraf sports limousine and seemingly derived DBX hi-coupe concept).
2. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars' similarly flexible engineering business model for Phantom and upcoming 'high-rider'.
3. Jaguar Land Rovers' use of sophisticated aluminium 'mix and match' components to span both marques and master the challenge of high volumes production.
4. McLaren Automotive's F1 technology transfer into MP4-12C road-car and successors.

And from latter international and European perspectives...

5. Gordon Murray's 'blank-sheet' efforts for the T-series city cars and istream productionisation.
6. BMW's very impressive achievement with the production scale-up of carbon-fibre structures for its i3 model*, allowing for complete process integration into conventional (typically steel body) high volume production lines.

[NB the German designed i3 is included here since its structure (or portions thereof) will very probable be used in future generations of the UK produced Mini (or an associated sub-brand)].

The ability to meet these PESTEL induced new market challenges adds but the latest chapter to an illustrious history of British innovation and portends its irrevocably closer ties with entwined European innovation.

Further proof of Britain's continued, and now increasing, strand of leading edge engineering is seen by the increased proactive alignment toward global 'mega-trends', itself offering broad and deep possibilities, Ricardo plc perhaps being the first engineering consultancy to become so progressive, expanding well beyond automotive with periodic re-shaping of its divisions to befit incoming trends since 2000.

Primary 'HVM' attuned technology firms include:

Ricardo plc
(since 1927 – fields: Transportation, Clean Energy, Defence)
McLaren Automotive Ltd
(since 1989 - Sportscars)
McLaren Group Ltd
(since 1985 – subsidiaries: Racing, Technology, Circuit, Applied Tech, Food, Animation)
Williams Grand Prix Holdings plc
(since 1977 as GP team - subsidiaries: Grand Prix Eng'g (Williams Martini Racing), Advanced Engineering (various), Heritage) [Hybrid Eng'g division divested to GKN]).
Prodrive Ltd
(since 1984 – Motorsport Eng, Roadcar Eng.)
Cosworth Ltd
(since 1958 – M'sport and Roadcar Engine Dev.. Data Mgmt, Control Systems)
Hewland Ltd
(since 1957 – M'sport and Roadcar Transmission Dev., Data Mgmt, Control Systems)
Xtrac Ltd
(since 1984 – M'sport and Roadcar Transmissions, also Marine and Aerospace).
Torotrack plc
(since 1980s – Multi-sector applications of CVT, Variable Supercharging, M-KERS).
BAE Systems plc
(since 1999 – Defence [inc Land Systems, Electronics], Security, Military and Civil Aerospace, Military Marine, Munitions, Maintenance, Consultancy, Training).
Marshall ADG
(since 1909 – Defence: Air, Land, Sea, B2B Aircraft Services Mgmt, Personnel1)

[NB the inter-disciplinary nature of HVM, and investor appeal, more apparent with the term “technology”].

These examples the most notable of the UK's internal capabilities, relevant commercial fields and progressive technical directions; each stand-out proponents of “HVM”. From the ecologically minded electro-mechanical test-bed of Formula 1 race-car engineering, to proven materials technology transfer into fields as far reaching as national defence and mechanic prosthetics.

However, this stated, it would be disingenuous to believe that decades of de-industrialisation has not taken a toll. As a nation, having embraced a century of innovation and recognised how technology had saved Britain in WW2, it appears that Britain's love affair with high profile engineering effectively ended with Concorde in 1969, largely because of a socio-economic climate which saw initial recession, thereafter trade and industry problems and the arrival of cheaper yet quality-made imports from Japan.

All setting the UK's manufacturing economy on a negatively redirected course.

Although the eventual positive arrival of foreign transplant factories re-invigorated regional economies (though adding little HVM until much later), it was the inevitable 1970s era decline of those established British marques (Jaguar, Triumph, Rover, Mini, Land Rover) which undermined much of UK engineering.

Twenty years of reduced revenues and BMC/BLMC corporation rationalisation meant ever more thinly gained and spread research and development funding. Latterly under Austin-Rover and Rover Group poorly prioritised in instances. (One example being the then new K-series engine. Whilst technically fascinating with reduced mass, its 'long-bolt' construction and use of variable valve technology, it was effectively poorly integrated with the overall product and business strategy.

Understood to have been the work of 'petrol-head' powertrain engineers, its origination and development was effectively mismanaged by company leaders. Whilst its high revving strong 'top-end' power delivery was well suited to the low volume (business marginal) MGF, the engine was ill-suited to its main application, that of the high volume (business critical) Rover 25/45 and especially 75, given its comparative lack of “low-end" torque. Though less notable in the lighter, smaller cars, it was a basic flaw in the heavier, large car, which
in effect sought to create a market space as something akin to a D-segment Rolls-Royce. Instead the brand offered a promise which driving reality (ie ideal of quiet low-rev pull-away) did not uphold.

Thus with somewhat limited and often misdirected contribution from the mass vehicle producers, it was left to the imperative of National Defence and Motorsport ambition to carry the Research and Development banner.

Of course, such a reflective glow instead grew in the more glamorous quarters of the service economy.

Especially so regards brands with illustrious history or contemporary cache. The airline sector has British Airways vis-a-vis Virgin Atlantic, each with their respective personalities, the hotel and restaurant sector including the likes of Claridges or The Wolseley (albeit 'olde worlde' re-invented) vis-a-vis newer on-trend entrants such as The Corinthean. Whilst in a daring and imaginative move the iconic St Pancras (Renaissance) merged yesteryear originality with contemporary 'cool' ahead of King Cross' own locational re-invention as an IT and science hub.

Yes, there have been instances of similar manufacturing success outside of premium autos, but those examples are rare, with inevitable mention of Dyson appliances (although with little mention of the headwind personal experiences of James Dyson).

Thus, the HVM research and development work of which Britain can presently boast, is the result of entrepreneurs, board members and technical experts often battling against the odds of MoD budget cuts and Motorsport's all to erratic income streams, effectively since the mid 1970s onwards.

Strategic Deployment of 'High Value' Products, IPR and Identity -

Thankfully, since the turn of the century greater attention has been drawn to plight of UK manufacturing by the likes of the CBI and other central bodies, looking toward maintaining any rich seams remaining countrywide. Interests in expanding what are typically relatively small but often sound business models, with specific preference for those of 'niche-scale' and 'intermediate scale' size operating in higher value segments of a specific sector given its relative regional and global TIV (total industry volume).

Such commercialisation typically relies upon heritage and authenticity with the likes of “Harris Tweed” being showcased in textiles alongside the likes of other regional makers of items ranging from furniture to cheese.

These often artisan producers are often quoted as “ripe for realisation” and should follow those companies which themselves build a path to wider commercial success. Here the inimitable Morgan Motors of Worcestershire, with its history and progressive renewal through a 'nouvelle-retro' product strategy and brand philosophy is touted as the guiding light.

Importantly, as Britain continues to build its 'Knowledge Economy' (fashionably now termed the “Quarternery Sector” given its separation from physical services) becoming increasingly reliant on its 'creative industries' and their high regard for intellectual property rights (IPR), so firms operating in older Secondary and Tertiary sectors in possession of what they consider proprietary origination strengths, have became ever more entranced with the idea of IPR in protection of their present and future commercial potential.

[NB As with the origins of the Victorian patenting system, there remains debate as to whether external creativity and innovation in certain spheres might be unduly quashed by over strenuous application of IPR, typically a boon the legal profession and those with the financial means to protect their interests. Both the IPR 'maximalists' and 'minimalists' have valid arguments, so any balance of opinion should realistically depend upon specific sector maturity and level of contribution to the overall economy].

Of course today, the end result is that not only is the 'service-product' itself a saleable entity at home or abroad, but that very rights to the replication of such “works” (exacting and familiar) become saleable in their own manner. Effectively the intellectualised extension of yesteryear's replicability via product licensing.

As regards “HVM” we saw a watershed instance when Gordon Murray Design in Surrey sold the IPR rights of its T-series city-car and the associated i-stream production process to Yamaha; naming it 'MOTIV.e'. This then a pragmatic expansion of the IT IPR business model as manifested by the likes of ARM Holdings plc.

As regards Identity Extrapolation...

Highly regarded brands have for decades recognised the commercial value of expanding the application of nameplates. Known as “brand extension' the occurrence can become overt 'brand stretch' when venturing into remote areas. The feasibility to do so depending upon brand perception and persona, which itself can be variable relative to the client type involved.

Previously the example of Aston Martin was illustrated with its 'stretch' into upmarket general merchandising, partnering with examplar silversmiths and others to provide a wrap-a-round lifestyle for many of its newer customers from EM regions. Whilst a wealthy 'Middle Englander' would have been aghast at the proliferation of the nameplate onto domestic drinking vessels, artefacts and object d'arts, a more recent client from the 'Middle Kingdom' may well have swooned at the idea of his / her family, friends and business associates drinking from the “cup of success”. This interpretation also recognised by Bentley Motors with its creation of 'Bentley Home' (beds, tables, crystal-ware etc) via Luxury Living Group outlets, such as that on the Brompton Road near Harrods.

To varying degrees, these latter-day examples of the mutually rewarding idea for 'cross-branding' which expanded through the 1990s and 2000s.

 In automotive terms it ranges from small cars such as the Peugeot 205 Lacoste of 1985, to the more recent “500 by Gucci” restyle for the FIAT Cinquecento, and reaches up to the high echelons of Land Rover's increasing private sales roster for its SVO division (Special Vehicle Operations). The initial Range-Rover “by Holland and Holland” saw a second edition in 2014, ongoing interests to devise other upscale cross-branding agreements (eg in yachting), and very recently the multi-coloured Paul Smith Defender).

Britain also continues to progress the business template notion idea of 'Veneer Branding', whereby the personality of a brand gains such a strong level of goodwill that it may be credibly overlaid onto the operations of another service provider or manufacturer -typically involving a product improvement programme - with ideally no loss of overlay 'brand equity'.

The previous given examples were quite obviously the once trail-blazing Virgin Group and the “no-frills” Easy Group.

Today, the UK's outwardly visible 21st Industrial-Services Model essentially:
1. 'High Value' Products
2. 'High Value' Associated Services
3. IPR Sale and Lease
4. 'High Value' Brand Extensions and Tie-Ins
5. 'High value' Brand Identity 'Veneers'.

The Four Pillars of Future HVM -

Part 3 of the weblog highlighted the need for Britain to properly recognise and expound 4 critical themes if it is to regain its domestic and international reputation as a renowned “workshop of the world”, able to provide best-in-class manufacturing productivity and generate accordant wealth creation for all stakeholders.

A.“Business Nounce”
B. Enthusiasm and Tenacity
C. Multi-Aspect Advanced Engineering
D. 3D Precision meets Arts-Crafts.

The first of these previously described in Part 3, was “Business Nounce”. Best personified by the fictional TV character of Fred Moffatt, central to Yorkshire TV's early 1980s production of 'The Gaffer'.

Moffatt is the Managing Director of a small engineering business located in the back-streets of a once thriving prototypical late Victorian era Yorkshire town. The inherited firm struggles on, itself seen as a supplier to the new 1980s crop of better amalgamated, bigger and 'professionalised' top tier firms, But typically it is his unequalled engineering knowledge – about feasible costs, time-scales and quality levels - that allows him to earn from the mistakes of the supposedly superior firms.

He is seen to 'battle-on' against the odds as a master tactician, displaying a level of mental agility and lateral thinking which identifies 'win-win' solutions, whether with clients, staff or the bank manager. In short “Business Nounce”.

Enthusiasm and tenacity is depicted by the attitude of the very real character that is Guy Martin. With a family associated with the maintenance and repair of HGVs, and personal exploits in the glamorous, adrenalin-fuelled world of super-bike racing (IoM TT etc) this Lincolnshire and Humberside “lad” has come to personify UK engineering's glorious past and promising future.

His “everyman” persona, allied with qualities of modesty, grace, avid interest and 'have a go' hands-on willingness illustrates why he is perfectly suited to the role of engineering's ambassador' to the masses. TV production themes subtly but powerfully mould the public consciousness, Martin's own background, natural character and TV persona, means he is positioned equidistantly between 'cheeky-chappy' and serious task-master, able to influence many of the younger generation – both of practical nature and academic - to translate yesteryear's heavy engineering heyday into today and tomorrow's expansion of High Value Manufacturing.

The term 'Multi-Aspect Advanced Engineering' in effect tries to capture the plethora of progressive disciplines and cross-disciplines of an engineering nature which exists within an ever broadening “STEM” and “MIST” subject realms. (In a modern age over-burdened with acronyms which dilute inherent meaning, the phrase 'Multi-Aspect Advanced Engineering' is deliberately used in full to infer the expanded parameters of ever more inter-disciplinary engineering. Pertinently, the now forgotten etymological root of the word “engine” derives from “ingen-uity”, itself defined as “skill or cleverness in devising or combining”, taken from the Latin “ingenium”.

From the natural discoveries, empirical methods, plotted illustrations, design-works and artistry of 'renaissance man' Leonardo da Vinci, to now 500 years later, the quest for 'revolutionary ideals' (such as brain prompted robotic prosthetics and other bio-engineering ambitions), the multi-faceted arena of engineering applied to various ends, has been, and the prime motive force in humanity's advancement. Given that humans are essentially energy converting, chemically controlled, electro-mechanical beings, it is inevitable that in human-kind's bid to “know the mind of god” engineering will merge ever deeper into, and draw from, the core sciences.

As this academic to eventually commercialised ambition swells, in the meantime over the next 20 years 'Multi-Aspect Advanced Engineering' will through a form systems control of its own inputs and outputs (including most critically cyber, electronics, electro-mechanics and materials) will continue to re-shape the physical structures within the world, doing so increasingly en mass.

As regards the last pillar...'3D Precision meets Arts-Craft'...rather than applied as a specific term, it serves instead to re-awaken the need to re-inject a far greater sense of the human soul into today's and tomorrow's entrancing, but consciously remote - and so possibly dystopian – cyber-influenced physical technologies. To this end it simply seeks to better enlighten and serve all levels of consumerism.

Herein we see that historical design trends have slowly alternated between the stylised and the austere, much depending upon the sway and direction of religious and political influence and its apparent guiding of the mass consciousness. Hence the creative realms of craftsmanship were patronised by the the powers of the day, the Roman-Catholic church and Aristocratic families able to utilise their funds for self-glorification and retained hold on power. This was somewhat rebalanced as the Renaissance era gave way to The Enlightenment, with the best examples of architecture becoming better rationalised, 'de-cluttered', harmonised and humanised, utilising not only 'classical' Vitruvian scale and proportions (esp.'golden section' and 'golden mean') but were also greatly enhanced with the scientific beginnings of ergonomics (especially so in kitchens and other active areas which required efficiency). Thereafter, as part of the physically manifest political struggle between Europe's old and new orders of the late 19th century, (Landed Christian Royals vs Monied Jews), the new orders of Russian Communism and E.European Socialism deployed often stark Modernism to intentionally eradicate the historical conventions of artistry and craftsmanship; themselves touted by the new powers as Bourgeois.

Whilst 20th century consumerism was undoubtedly stylistically led, with a myriad of trends and choices throughout the decades, since the 1950s the mass market has had access to a spectrum of aesthetic choice, with although mass trends being set by media-led fashionability, the ability to make deliberately subtle 'anti-fashion' choices. To illustrate, in 1959 Britain's suburbanites might choose either the decade-old, curvaceous and somewhat ornate Morris Minor, or the more Modernist new 'boxy' Mini, which itself set a following BLMC trend for clean 'Italian' lines.

Interestingly, whilst historically the early introduction of then new technologies such as the sewing machine, gramophone, “wireless” / radio and television (through the 1890s – 1950s) were typically presented and sold within wooden cabinets, since the generational and cultural delineation of the plastic-led 1960s' (this material = 'futurism' / space age), electronic consumer technology has been invariably encased within low-cost, black, white or silver plastic casings, periodically brushed aluminium - these 3 colours synonymous with 'hi-tech' – with latterly for smart-phones the addition of a notionally personalised covers, ranging from cheap multi-coloured hard cases to soft translucent plastics to leather and faux-leather cases and wallets.

At long last, the desire to personalise and protect the smart-phone has introduced new variation sin colours and materials; albeit as an accessory. However, critically, at the highest end amongst luxury goods, the juxtaposition of smart-phone functionality and designer brand symbolism have very importantly brought craftsmanship closer to the possible tipping-point moment of mass awareness and appreciation.

This is potentially a social start-point for a new direction in 'enlightened consumerism', in which many, many more people living in the often clinical environments of 'mega-cities' begin to recognise that the creation of a consumer item that which is either wholly the direct result of human application, or has a obvious degree of human interaction in its manufacture, has in many instances more intrinsic worth – and importantly gives an inter-personal connection - than that which is the result of clinical mass manufacture.

For the moment in the UK, Europe and North America, the typical higher labour costs of artisans and the use of higher cost materials to partially off-set those high labour rates means that wholly crafted items tend to be necessarily positioned in luxury price segments. Encouragingly, there may be the beginning of a new trend toward partially-crafted and 'craft-contributed' items, thereby counter-balancing higher labour rates with savings made from equipment / plant.

The world at large obviously has a massive labour force, much of it undertaking hand-work to a high degree, as in China's continuation of its ceramic traditions. Yet it is Europe and the UK which has long led the ideal of task dedicated craftsmanship, this the central philosophy of Medieval German guilds and their replication in Britain, so as to ensure finished quality and the availability of suitable talent. Though obviously tempered by the industrial revolution, that core consciousness has always been present, and today, whilst Italy leads in the production of crafted leather goods and France arguably still so in “haute couture”, it is a plethora of British names – from Bentley Motors to Linley Marquetry – which demonstrate the spirit, dedication and soulful appeal of the hand-crafted in many sectors of the physical economy, from the enormity of domestic house construction down to the intricacy of a highly engraved silverware keep-sake.

At a point in history when the 'hi-tech' style wave - by way of its flat glass and plastic surfaces, from buildings to phones - has created the late 20th century urban environment to be bereft of soul; the initial 1950s 'Internationalist' look now so prevalent many cities have become Fritz Lang's dystopian 'Metropolis' (even with floral 'greening'), then it is surely time properly socially and commercially reflect upon the negatives of the all too Modernist age.

This undertaken whilst also recognising the positive effects of somewhat commoditised mass-manufacture, especially how (as proven) when propelled by the efficient allocation of capital it forms the fundamental route to rise in living standards for the many. Additionally, recognition of how the 'micro-sizing' of precision industrial – itself a slow process led by 3D printers – promises to create a new economic layer of “micro-producers”, in both industrial and artistic spheres.

To this end, the fusion of both the 3D Precise and the Hand-crafted original, when conjoined with cyber and eco themes, provides potentially very promising economic foundations into the future,

Conclusion -

The collapse of the increasingly unstable credit-boom of Western nations in 2008, punctuated in Europe by the Sovereign Debt crisis of 2010, has effectively demanded that the West re-imagine large elements of is economic future. Although drastic fiscal and monetary policies have thus far avoided economic melt-down (and ironically been a boon to the financial fortunes of the sector blamed for 2008) the fact is that the maturity of globalisation has, and continues to, re-aligned the world's economic order.

Never again will the USA, UK and Europe be as fundamentally powerful as they were over the preceding 500 years. Yet it is the template of Democratic Capitalism which has enriched (and at times heavily damaged) those countries once termed 'Developing' and now viewed as 'Emerging' and 'Pioneering'.

Thus the global competitive position of the West has shifted dramatically, increasingly relying upon new Tertiary and Quarternary activities surrounding IT and the 'knowledge Economy', but arguably with a lack of STEM and MIST skill competence and scale across large sections of society, especially when compared to the new generational capabilities and scale of EM countries.

This concern was recognised at the turn of the millennium by the UK , as was the problem of its over-reliance on the London centric finance sector.

And so consequentially, measures were put into place - most prominently the Technology Strategy Board - to try and better steer Britain plc's industrial and commercial output to become better relevant to itself, the demands of the wider B2B and B2C world, and to importantly carve a leading role for itself regards thought leadership, influence and implementation. In short, creation a new era business model born from those slices of Britain's own historic and present competitive advantages which align to high potential global 'mega-trends'.

The most advanced, specialised and research intense elements of Britain's remaining production base were identified, the production base itself already largely previously “economically filtered” by the effects of globalisation. The simple but appropriate idiom of “High Value Manufacturing” had been in use for decades, but was now more prosaic than ever.

“High Value Manufacturing” then was added to the “Knowledge Economy”, “Service Industries” and (now tainted but vital) “Financial Sector”.

However, although the trickle-down of QE monies within the presently benign low base-rate climate will feed into revitalised and new commerce across all these arenas, investment-auto-motives believes that there a more concentrated effort must be made towards respective technical and societal progress in the themes discussed: “Multi-Aspect Advanced Engineering” and “3D meets Arts-Crafts”.

Given the awful socio-economic effects of the 2008 crisis on its population, and the immense expectation of future growth delivered largely solely through the 4 contemporary economic corner-stones, it would perhaps also serve to in 2015 “visioneer” beyond that already in place, to provide yet further avenues of potential and kinetic economic energy, achieved through continued socio-commercial exploration and experimentation.