“The rest of the world has a higher opinion of us than we do – people still hold British manufacturing in high esteem,” Deborah Meaden tells Real Business. “But if we keep telling ourselves that British manufacturing is dead, then sure enough, it will be.”Deborah Meaden is currently fronting a campaign for the Design Council’s new Designing Demand programme, which gives entrepreneurs intensive help to become more innovative. Under the scheme, SMEs in the manufacturing sector can sign up to learn how to use design to find new markets, compete better and improve their business performance. A key problem of Britain’s economy is its image. Every time she sits through pitches on Dragons’ Den, no one ever considers the UK as a place to manufacture their goods, says Meaden: “Everybody thinks they have to get their products made overseas. And this is an issue – we do manufacturing very well, but we need to find a way to better communicate the opportunity. We need to attract more people into manufacturing.” While Meaden explains that she isn’t a purist (“If you’re making a million red plastic buttons, just get them made in China”), she believes more needs to be done to support British innovation and high tech. “Small firms and startups in the manufacturing sector will vital to the future growth of the UK economy. It is more important than ever that we help them find new markets, new ways to compete and new opportunities to grow.” Manufacturing SMEs have until the end of October to apply for the Design Council’s Designing Demand programme. The scheme will see up to 40 firms teamed up with expert mentors.
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