ESCO looks to a smarter future for electronic systems

1 min read

After 18 months of discussion, research and analysis, the ESCO Report – Electronic Systems: Challenges and Opportunities – has been published, providing, in a way which hasn't been done before, an accurate picture of electronics' contribution to the UK economy.

We know electronics is pervasive, but previous 'best guesses' have put UK employment closer to 250,000 people. ESCO says the electronic systems sector – by definition, wider than pure electronics – sustains 850,000 jobs. It also estimates the electronic systems sector contributes £78billion to the UK's GDP – another figure which focuses the mind. But ESCO is about growth – it wants GDP contribution to grow to £120bn and employment to 1million by 2020. The big question is 'how'? Its three top line objectives are: to build greater recognition of the sector; to help vertical sectors grow; and to exploit the UK's ES capability globally. One of the big surprises is the absence of calls for funding, special initiatives and so on. Perhaps that's a realistic appraisal of the economic situation, but it could also be an acceptance that it's up to the industry to sort itself out. Industry leaders, the report says, should take ownership of making change happen. 'We believe our future is in our hands', it says. The word 'smart' is a recurrent theme – leadership, industries, partnerships, supply chains, skills and brands. The implication is we aren't, but need to be. The report points out the lack of any large electronics companies beyond ARM and Imagination – both IP developers, rather than hardware. It wonders why countries of similar physical size and GDP – Taiwan and South Korea are cited – have successful electronics industries while the UK doesn't. It wonders – with a nod towards the likes of Samsung – why the UK doesn't have 'globally dominant consumer facing brands'. That question alone would take a while to answer. For now, the future lies in helping verticals to develop better products, bringing benefits to entire supply chains and, hence, to the UK's economy. But, first things first, there's the small matter of uniting the industry behind one flag. New Electronics has used the phrase 'herding cats' before in this context and has no hesitation in using it again.