In this month’s edition of his regular column, Philip Law, Director-General of the British Plastics Federation (BPF), highlights the importance of a UK presence at K Show and outlines exactly what the industry has to offer.
The K fair is looming. BPF will have a strong presence with 25 companies in the British Pavilion based in Halls 5 (materials) and 12 (machinery). With the Brexit vote causing consternation in the EU, I believe it is important that the UK plastics industry is 'all over' the K fair. Trade fair participation has been dismissed by some as a mere flag waving exercise, but positive people can turn every circumstance into an opportunity. It very much depends on your outlook.
Let's make K 2016 an occasion where we make the positive imprint we warrant. We are one of the largest UK manufacturing industry sectors with a 23.5 GBP turnover and employ some 180,000 people. We export £7.5 bn of plastics materials, products and equipment.
Our productivity measured by value added is one of the highest in Europe. We have considerable strengths in specialist materials, technical mouldings, extrusion technology, rotational moulding, ancillary equipment, design and energy management to name but some! We have sources of feedstock for polymer manufacturing here, in the form of oil, associated gas and shale gas. Our geology produces a wide range of additives. We have universities with specialisms in plastics - Bradford, Loughborough, Belfast, Leeds, Durham, Sheffield, Imperial - the list rolls on.
Yes, we have our weaknesses, but we have to focus on the positives and reinforce our areas of vulnerability. Add to this our heritage of having originated the commercial plastics industry, discovered PE and PEEK, it's a pretty formidable offering. The UK is actually where the plastics industry is happening.
In my estimation there is no other national plastics industry community in the world as vibrant and cohesive as that in the UK, represented through the BPF. These are the messages we need to project at 'K' and I hope that all UK visitors will communicate these to their interlocutors not only on the fairground, but also in the bars, restaurants and hotels of Düsseldorf.
Regarding Brexit, a topic that will inevitably be discussed during K Show, the uncertainty continues. The BPF is clear in its requirements for the UK plastics industry, confirmed by a survey of its 500 plus member sites. We want free access to the Single Market.
We are an international industry with a substantial degree of foreign ownership. There is a strong two-way ebb and flow of plastics raw materials and products which we don't want interrupted. We also want continuing access to skills. We have some 18,000 EU migrants as employees and we want immediate confirmation of their working status.
Regulatory equivalence with the EU is also key, as the EU is a major export destination and we are habituated to working within its legislation. Finally, we are looking for increased support for overseas business development – particularly for SMEs – and incentives to encourage re-shoring. Increased support for innovation is also key to help keep us at the cutting edge.
So the 'K' fair is an opportunity to tell the world's manufacturing industry that not only that it can't do without us, it actually needs a lot more of us!
For a preview of the UK exhibitors at K, read the feature in this issue starting on page 49. You can also find more information at www.k2016.co.uk. If you are attending, do visit the BPF stand 5A28 to say hello.