Richard Gibbs – CEO – Filtronic
The need to strengthen supply chains within the UK has assumed greater prominence recently, following disruption caused by the pandemic, Brexit and global geopolitical shifts. The complexity of global supply chains means that most countries rely on importing essential components, skills or hardware to deliver critical services. But in a world where protectionism is on the increase – whether manifested overtly or via national standards and regulations – the UK urgently needs to develop sovereignty in critical aspects of technology and build greater supply chain resilience.
Securing critical industries
Recognising this, the government has taken positive steps in the right direction, with initiatives such as Project Defend focusing on creating reliable supplies of strategically important components within the UK. Such government backing will be essential to secure the investment needed to develop internal supply chains for vital industries, so the UK is less exposed to global shortages. A significant challenge, however, will be finding ways to maintain and build competitive advantage in a world where ideas and intellectual property are flowing less freely across international boundaries.
Unique SME network
At Filtronic, we believe the answer lies in mobilising the huge network of specialist SMEs in the UK, who have the particular skills, knowledge, design capabilities and manufacturing facilities to deliver critical components for the UK. Skills, experience and know-how like this can’t be bought off the shelf, and we’re fortunate in the UK to have some of the world’s leading experts in advanced technologies to keep us ahead of the competition.
In our own business, we have 40 years’ experience of developing unique radio frequency (RF) components and sub-systems for high-performance communication networks. Our products today are the result of accumulated knowledge and innovation, honed over 40+ years of adapting to new frequencies and changing industry demands.
Defence and telecoms focus
The UK government is focusing on the defence and telecommunications infrastructure sectors in its initial efforts to build strategic autonomy. This is where the many specialist SMEs in the UK can really help to build robust networks and enable the UK to capitalise on emerging opportunities. In telecoms infrastructure, for example, we don’t have a giant company able to directly replace Huawei, but we do have many niche suppliers that can deliver all the essential pieces of the jigsaw.
Emerging opportunities in space
The next big step in telecommunications is likely to involve satellite communications. The UK government has invested in OneWeb, with the ambition of developing satellite constellations to compete directly with the likes of SpaceX and Amazon. Filtronic already has the RF technology to support satellite communications, and can help the UK build the valuable space capabilities that are likely to be in great demand globally in the years ahead.
Maximise existing capabilities
The initiatives established by government so far are extremely welcome, and there is clearly momentum behind the drive to invest in UK supply chains. Now is the time to maximise the unique breadth and depth of skills, intellectual property and capabilities that already exist in the UK. This is vital not only to secure our critical industries and enable them to thrive in a rapidly changing world, but also to build the strong technology base the UK needs to remain open to global trade and to build new relationships worldwide.
To learn more about Filtronic’s capabilities within critical industries such as Aerospace, Defence, Telecommunications Infrastructure and Space, click here