Over a third of UK engineers surveyed are concerned that their business will be affected by a lack of skilled workers, according to research by MPA, a professional business services company supporting all aspects of innovation in the UK.
The study of 250 UK engineers, examined some of the biggest challenges presently faced by the sector and perceptions around the industry’s approach to innovation.
With research indicating that the current shortage of employees with STEM skills is costing UK businesses £1.5bn a year in recruitment [https://www.verdict.co.uk/stem-day/], it is no surprise that skills shortage is cited by the sector as the factor likely to have the biggest impact, with close to two in five (37%) agreeing it will have an effect.
The factors that UK engineers feel will have the biggest impact on their sector over the next five years are:
1. Skills shortage – 37%
2. Automation – 22%
3. Development of new materials – 17%
4. Data usage – 10%
5. Cybersecurity – 4%
The research also reveals that businesses are missing out on potential funding opportunities.
56% claim that their company doesn’t tap into sources of R&D funding or support, such as Innovate UK, crowdfunding or Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).
The research also found that one in five (21%) innovation active engineering firms are not taking advantage of the government’s R&D Tax Credit scheme, which allows companies to claim back up to 33p for every £1 spent on R&D activity.
On average, engineering companies invest £386,000 a year on R&D activity, meaning they are potentially able to claim £100,360 in funding [R&D tax credits calculator: https://mpa.co.uk/services/rd-tax-credits/].
With over 100,000 [Office for National Statistics: ‘Engineering Industry in the UK’ (December 2018) - there are 721,940 active engineering enterprises in the UK. 485,143 (67%) of these are innovation active. 101,880 (21%) of these innovation active companies are not claiming R&D funding: //www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/business/activitysizeandlocation/adhocs/009383engineeringindustryintheuk
UK engineering firms not claiming, despite describing their company as innovation active, a staggering £10.2 billion is going unclaimed each year.
Reasons for not claiming the funding vary, but the most common answer given by engineers is that they don’t believe their companies are eligible (10%).
Nigel Urquhart, Senior Technical Analyst at MPA, said: “Engineering companies in the UK are respected all over the world for their quality and innovation, but we need to ensure that as an industry we are recruiting the best and brightest minds into roles across the sector.
“STEM education and training support are vital for making sure the UK’s economy continues to thrive and will play a key part in ensuring the UK reaches the current government target of 2.4% of GDP being spent on R&D by 2027.
“The UK is currently lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to innovation, research and development, and this could be because so many eligible companies are not utilising the financial support available.
“Initiatives like the R&D Tax Credit scheme allow businesses to free up vital funds that can be used to fund further innovation, which could help ensure UK engineering stays at the forefront of the industry.”
To see whether your company is eligible for the R&D Tax Credit scheme, visit: https://mpa.co.uk/services/rd-tax-credits/