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Conference Resources

InterAct Conference 2023

As we embark on the next stage of our industrial evolution, digitalisation will shape the future of our economy, manufacturing ecosystem, and workplace. Digital technologies can enable us to create the future we want and move beyond consumption driven economic growth.

Our challenge is to create a digital manufacturing future that meets our net-zero ambitions, whilst being resilient and productive. Thus, ensuring that everyone has the things that they need, at a price that they can afford, without damaging the environment or society.

To create the digital manufacturing future we want, we first need to know how that can be achieved, we need to explore the possible and work together to realise these goals. In order to combine our expertise from the broadest range of perspectives around this common goal, we need to InterAct.

How did the InterAct conference benefit attendees?

  • Gaining actionable human insights into the future manufacturing environment.
  • Networking and building relationships with cross-sector experts interested in creating a positive, forward-thinking vision for UK industry.
  • Building narrative development skills to enhance the reach of messaging in the digital environment.
  • The opportunity to take part in a collaborative workshop on the theme ‘How do we create the digital manufacturing futures we want to see, together’.
  • Engagement with a panel of highly regarded speakers from the world of manufacturing, policy, and academia during an interactive Q&A session.

Speakers

We were delighted to welcome a roster of world-leading speakers, who shared unique insights and perspectives on their areas of expertise in relation to the theme of ‘Creating the digital manufacturing future we want’.

Our speakers were drawn from a wide range of backgrounds across industry, policy, think-tanks, and academia. Together they represent a diverse collection of voices that we want to draw into the wider conversation about what it will take to build a future that delivers for everyone.

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Peter Cheese

Keynote Speaker

Chief Executive – Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)

Peter is the CEO of the CIPD, the professional body for HR and People Development. Since January 2019, he has been co-chair of The Flexible Working Task Force, a partnership across government departments, business groups, trade unions and charities, to increase the uptake of flexible working. He is also Chair of Engage for Success and the What Works Centre for Wellbeing.

Peter writes and speaks widely on the development of HR, the future of work, and the key issues of leadership, culture and organisation, people and skills. In 2021, his second book ‘The New World of Work’ was published, exploring the many factors shaping work, workplaces, workforces and our working lives, and the principles around which we can build a future that is good for people, for business and for societies. 

Prior to joining the CIPD in 2012 Peter was Chair of the Institute of Leadership and Management, an Executive Fellow at London Business School, and held a number of Board level roles. He had a long career in consulting at Accenture working with organisations around the world, and in his last seven years there was Global Managing Director for the firm’s human capital and organisation consulting practice.

He is a Fellow of the CIPD, a Fellow of AHRI (the Australian HR Institute), the Royal Society of Arts, and the Academy of Social Sciences. He’s also a Companion of the Institute of Leadership and Management, the Chartered Management Institute, and the British Academy of Management. He holds honorary doctorates from Bath University, Kingston University and Birmingham City University, and is a Visiting Professor at Aston University.



Ben Armstrong

Keynote Speaker

Executive Director – Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – Industrial Performance Center

Ben Armstrong is the executive director and a research scientist at MIT’s Industrial Performance Center, where he co-leads the Work of the Future initiative. His research and teaching examine how workers, firms, and regions adapt to technological change. His current projects include a working group on generative AI and its impact on work, as well as a book on American manufacturing competitiveness. He received his PhD from MIT and formerly worked at Google Inc.



David Rea

Speaker – Future of the Economy

Chief Economist – JLL

David is Chief Economist EMEA at JLL, one of the world’s largest commercial real estate services companies. At JLL, David advises the firm’s leadership and its clients on how the economy is evolving and the impact it will have on real estate. Prior to JLL, David spent six years as Chief Economist at Jaguar Land Rover and also led the company’s work to prepare for Brexit. He has previously held other economist positions at Capital Economics, RBS, and the Bank of Sierra Leone.


Professor Vania Sena

Speaker – Future of the Economy

InterAct Network – Future of the Economy: Principal Investigator
Chair in Entrepreneurship and Enterprise – University of Sheffield

Professor Sena’s first degree was awarded with laude by the University of Naples, Federico II, Naples, Italy; her postgraduate studies in Economics were carried out at the University of York, UK, where she was awarded both the MSc and the DPhil in Economics.

Her research focuses mainly on productivity growth, both at the micro and macro level with an emphasis on innovation, human capital and intellectual property. Her most recent research looks at the relationship among innovation activities,trade secrets and total factor productivity. She is a member of the Operational Society General Council and Board. She has been a visiting fellow at Harvard University, MA and at Rutgers University, NJ.

Vania is leading the InterAct workstream ‘The Future of the Economy’, which is examining the impact that the uptake of industrial digital technology in manufacturing will have on the wider economy and the implications of of this.


Dr. Adrienne Houston

Speaker – Future of Work

Company Director – Eurovacuum

Dr Adrienne Houston is Company Director at Eurovacuum Products Ltd. She is a Mechanical Engineering specialising in high vacuum and low pressure compressor systems and vacuum evaporator for the biogas, chemical and pharmaceutical industries.  

To complement her professional work, Adrienne is a keen promoter and champion of women in engineering, diversity and inclusion. In 2019 she was appointed by the Royal Academy of Engineering for the role of Diversity and Inclusion Visiting Professor at the University of Birmingham. She is a board member at the Research, Information and Knowledge committee at the Engineering Professors Council and Honorary Visiting Design Professor at the School of Engineering, University of Leicester. 


Professor Jillian MacBryde

Speaker – Future of Work

InterAct Network Co-director
Professor of Innovation and Operations Management – University of Strathclyde

Jill MacBryde is Professor of Innovation and Operations Management at Strathclyde University where she is also Director of the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship. Jill is Co-Director of the ESRC Made Smarter Network Plus, InterAct network, which aims to bring insights from the social sciences to support the innovation and diffusion of digital technologies that will result in a stronger, more resilient, manufacturing base.

The theme throughout Jill’s work is operations management in changing environments and her current research projects include productivity in manufacturing, the impact of Covid on UK manufacturing, and the future of manufacturing work. Jill also works with policy makers and the public sector. She is currently a member of the Innovate UK/ESRC Innovation Caucus and a member of the Innovate UK Future Flight Advisory Board.


Matt Tootle

Speaker – Future of Digital Manufacturing Ecosystems

Senior Business Analyst – Aerogility

Matt is an energetic and passionate leader who joined Aerogility with over 16 years’ experience in defence aerospace, primarily within support engineering and manufacturing. Matt’s specialisms include capturing and shaping complex customer requirements, designing and developing deliverable solutions and translating technical problems to non-technical individuals. Matt has extensive experience working with international customers and colleagues to deliver value to their operations. Matt’s current role sees him working across a variety of sectors to deliver innovative, model-based AI solutions to enable customers to better operate, sustain and optimise platforms, services and infrastructure.


Sue Williams

Speaker – Future of Digital Manufacturing Ecosystems

Managing Director – Hexagon Consultants

Sue Williams is a strategic and focused Supply Chain Director with over 25 years’ experience in multiple industries including automotive, aerospace, defence and FMEG as well as aftermarket and aftercare support.  Sue’s specialisms include supply chain design and modelling, inventory planning, demand management, S&OP and supply planning.  Sue has worked with organisations such as Jaguar Land Rover, Dyson, GKN and Meggitt among others, to deliver sustainable, high value change to their supply chains.  Sue was also the Head of Supply Chain for the Vaccine Taskforce, responsible for supply chain risk and resilience and the inbound modelling and planning for the vaccine supply.


Martin Bach

Speaker – Future of Digital Manufacturing Ecosystems

Martin Bach’s background is in process engineering and manufacturing management.  He has extensive business management experience in the UK, Europe and the US, running a wide range of businesses in the automotive and industrial sectors.  Most recently he was Managing Director of Cooksongold, the UK’s leading supplier of jewellery making materials and products.


Professor Janet Godsell

Speaker – Future of Digital Manufacturing Ecosystems

InterAct Network Co-director
Dean of Loughborough Business SchoolLoughborough University

Jan Godsell is Dean of Loughborough Business School and Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Strategy at Loughborough University. Her work focuses on the pursuit of more responsible consumption and production through the alignment of product, marketing, and supply chain strategy with consumer needs. Jan’s work focuses on the design of end-to-end supply chains to enable, responsibility, sustainability, resilience and productivity.

Jan is the workstream lead for ‘The Future of Digital Manufacturing Ecosystems’. This will examine how to develop more sustainable manufacturing business models, supply chains, and the role of innovative digital technologies (IDTs) in facilitating this shift.


Ved Sen

Keynote speaker

Head of Business Innovation – Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) UK

Ved is passionate about the impact of technology on business, culture, and society. He enjoys speaking and writing about technology and the future. He writes a weekly innovation newsletter, and is a regular speaker at industry forums. He has been a guest lecturer at the HSE Ireland Masters in Digital Healthcare Programme in Dublin for the past 3 years, and a regular speaker on AI and future systems.

Ved works as the Head of Business Innovation for Tata Consultancy Services UK. His primary focus is to help drive future thinking conversations with clients in solving tomorrow’s problems. He has been working with and advising senior clients across retail, travel, education, healthcare, financial services, public sector, and other businesses. Ved runs an innovation team in London and is leading the design and set up of Pace Port London. Currently his work spans areas such as reinventing social care for the elderly, connected homes and environments, and urban mobility, Generative AI, and more. Over the past 20+ years, Ved has been working on emerging technologies, and their adoption into organisations. An avid writer and regular speaker, Ved’s book “Doing Digital” was released in January 2023, and he writes a regular innovation newsletter.  


Fhaheen Khan

Panellist

Senior Economist – Make UK

Fhaheen Khan is a Senior Economist at Make UK, the manufactures organisation. His role primarily focusses on monitoring and evaluating the economic performance of manufacturers, which is published in a quarterly outlook report. In addition, Fhaheen’s role covers a myriad of topics relevant to manufacturing to advise Government bodies to develop policy with a focus on tax, investment and the business environment and is a regular commentator on public statistics.


Ben Farmer

Panellist

Deputy Director – Made Smarter Innovation Challenge

Ben is the Deputy Director of the Innovate UK-led £300 million Made Smarter Innovation Challenge; a collaboration between UK government and industry designed to support the development and novel application of industrial digital technologies.

Prior to this, Ben held positions at HiETA Technologies, Airbus Group, University of Bath and Cobham. He is also founder of Added Lightness, a technology strategy consulting business, and Atherton Bikes, which brings together multiple-world champion and world cup winning athletes with the latest composite and additive manufacturing technologies.

Ben holds a degree in Materials Science and Engineering and an MBA from the University of Bath, a PhD in Materials Science and Metallurgy from the University of Cambridge and is a Chartered Engineer.

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InterAct Blog

How co-working spaces can boost local economies

The routine of commuting five days a week to and from an employer’s office now seems somewhat old fashioned. Flexible and remote working have become much more common – and popular.

One global survey found that 68% of employees prefer flexible working. In the US, when given the option of remote work, 87% of employees take up the offer. It has also been estimated that up to 25% of workers in some of the world’s largest economies could work remotely for three to five days a week without any loss in productivity.

Improvements in digital technology and better broadband connections have made this drastic change possible. COVID then sped up the whole process, with remote working becoming a necessity for many.

Traditionally – and during COVID lockdowns – remote working meant working from home. But research suggests that much of the recent uptake in remote work is occurring in “co-working spaces”, where people from different professions and organisations work side by side.

These spaces provide flexible access to shared workspaces, with a range of facilities such as decent coffee, good wifi, digital printing and postal services. They range from basic to funky in design, some with natural features or social spaces equipped with table tennis and pool tables, boxing bags and PlayStations. Dogs and other pets are often welcome.

Since they first emerged in the US in 2005, co-working spaces have seen significant growth in both urban and rural locations. They have also been set up in tourist hot spots, catering for workers who wish to combine their jobs with travel on “workcations”, while others are designed for specific groups such as female entrepreneurs.

Some are run by large global companies while others are set up by local independent providers. But they are all designed for workers in search of a flexible approach, a decent location and an appealing working environment.

Part of this appeal comes from the social interaction they provide, reducing the isolation of working from home. They may also be located more conveniently than traditional places of work, reducing commute times and helping parents manage childcare commitments.

Commercial collaboration

The main feature of a co-working space is that the people who use it come from different backgrounds and are not employed by a single company. Such a diverse community can open up new opportunities for collaboration and the exchange of ideas – and even the potential for new commercial partnerships.

Indeed, some research suggests that co-working spaces are similar to “industrial clusters”, where groups of businesses in similar sectors are concentrated in a particular location, such as the Square Mile in London, or the area near Silverstone in England nicknamed Motorsport Valley.

Co-working spaces can be good for employers too, broadening their geographical reach. They may be cheaper than traditional office space, and provide a flexible option to scale up or down depending on economic circumstances.

And while most co-working spaces are designed for desk workers, there are an increasing number of manufacturing and engineering companies getting involved. Spaces which provide access to things like CAD software, 3D printers and lathes are particularly useful for small design or artisan businesses.

A role for policy?

This ease of access to tools and technology can encourage start-ups, or promote the re-emergence of small scale manufacturing in “left behind” places. In the US, for example, there has been a political push to promote co-working spaces as seedbeds of entrepreneurship.

In Italy, a similar policy in Rome has received the same kind of encouragement, while Ireland’s government announced plans for investment in 400 co-working hubs in rural areas to create a national network of facilities.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has also expressed interest in the potential of co-working spaces to boost regional development.

But so far in the UK the role of co-working spaces has largely been absent from any political party’s vision for developing regional economies. Instead, it seems to have been largely left to local authorities and businesses to take the lead.

In Stoke-on-Trent, for example, a new co-working space development has been launched in a partnership between the local government and private sector investment. Elsewhere, Devon County Council coordinates its own network of co-working hubs.

They have understood that the move towards more flexible working is surely here to stay. For many, it provides a sense of freedom and independence in their working lives.

Overall though there seems to be a lack of strategic thinking from the national government on the funding and location of co-working spaces. In tough economic conditions, this may turn out to be a significant missed opportunity.


Mariachiara Barzotto, Senior Lecturer in Management Strategy and Organisation, University of Bath; Felicia Fai, Associate professor in International Business and Innovation, University of Bath, and Phil Tomlinson, Professor of Industrial Strategy, Co-Director Centre for Governance, Regulation and Industrial Strategy (CGR&IS), University of Bath.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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InterAct Blog

Why flexible working is part of the ‘future of work’ for manufacturers

While hybrid working stole the limelight during the pandemic, we’re hearing about increasing numbers of employers with frontline staff that are now creating greater flexible working for people who can’t work from home. 

The manufacturing sector is a case in point. Until recently, employers generally told us that flexible working just wasn’t possible where machine operatives and production lines were involved. And yet, we recently spoke at an event with InterAct at Strathclyde University about the ‘future of work’, and we heard from a range of manufacturing and engineering firms that are implementing different kinds of flexibility that support their people and their business. 

For example, The Alex Begg Group, based in Ayr, has moved production staff that handcraft luxury scarves and blankets on to annualised hours. This means staff work four-day weeks at the start and end of the year, and five-day weeks in the busier middle period. Staff benefit from longer weekends in quieter periods, and the business benefits from having staff on hand when they’re most needed without increasing costs.

Livingston-based precision engineers, Almond Engineering, haveintroduced more flexible hours. Staff need to be in work during the core hours of 9am-3pm but people can start and finish before or after these times as long as they work their 39 hours in the week.  

Energy solutions firm Aggreko is promoting more roles as part time, in part to retain older, more experienced workers who are key to training and supporting new recruits and apprentices.  

In each case there are mutual benefits as workers have more choice and control over how they manage their work and home responsibilities, which we know boosts wellbeing, while employers benefit from retaining loyal, engaged and productive staff, and employers are more attractive to a much wider pool of potential new staff. Flexible working is very much part of the future of work for manufacturing firms. 

If you’d like to create more flexible ways of working for frontline manufacturing staff, here are out top 10 practical tips. Many are seemingly very small changes but they can make a big difference. 

1.    Advanced notice of shifts 

If you can plan ahead and give people more notice of their shifts, including specifics about location if this varies, it gives them more control over the rest of their life. They can book medical appointments, arrange childcare, or just know when they can go for swim or take the dog for a walk.  

2.    Reliable, predictable shift patterns 

Creating a regular shift pattern also helps people have more control over work and life outside because they can anticipate shifts, and plan accordingly.  

3.    Know your team 

Understanding someone’s personal circumstances can help you create a shift pattern that works. You might not be able to accommodate everyone’s preferences all the time. But knowing what employees prefer means you can design rotas that keep people happier in general, and need fewer swaps. 

4.    Direct rota input for employees 

Have you ever tried letting your team put together their own rota? You might need to intervene if there are gaps. But you can be sure staff are getting more of the shifts they want if they’ve chosen them directly.  

5.    Easy shift swaps 

Make it simple for people to change shifts with a colleague if they need to. There are good apps that can help teams communicate clearly, view rotas and swap shifts quickly, as well as email and group messaging. 

6.    Small adjustments 

Allowing staff to make small, guilt-free adjustments when the unexpected happens – a broken boiler, poorly child or elderly relative who needs support, for example. This makes a huge difference to how stressed people feel, if it’s ok to make small changes to their working pattern to deal with something important happening at home. 

7.    Flexible hours and shifts 

Would part-time hours work for some people in some roles? This can instantly open up roles to more people, especially parents, carers and people with disabilities who can’t work full time. It can also save the company money by only paying salaries for the time you really need. Would two people job-sharing be able to deliver the same outcomes for customers? Or compressed hours (doing fewer, longer days)? Would a twilight shift suit some people better, or fewer, longer shifts? Think about what sort of flexibility could work for your teams, and remember ost people only want relatively small amounts of flex. 

8.    Small amounts of working from home 

Could some parts of roles could be done at home? Whether it’s admin tasks, some staff meetings or training. Even just a small amount of home working, where possible, can make a difference to someone’s busy week. 

9.    Talk about existing flexible working and wellbeing benefits 

Many companies have brilliant support and benefits that some employees have no idea exist. It’s an easy win to shout about what you already have. Make sure your staff take their leave entitlement, and understand what’s available to support parents and carers. Remind them there’s an employee network that might be helpful, that there are mental health first aiders they can talk to, or simply flag lunchtime activity classes if you have them. Make sure your people know all the support they can tap in to. 

10.  Train great line managers 

Managers who can communicate effectively and empathetically with their teams will get the best from them. This includes ensuring colleagues who aren’t always sat at computers have the information they need and the ability to share their opinion freely, as well was understanding changes in people’s circumstances and being open to sensitive discussions, such as people having too much work. 

For more information about Flexibility Works and the support we provide to employers, please visit flexibilityworks.org 

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InterAct Blog

Future workforces: job quality & perceptions of UK manufacturing

Has the impact of the global pandemic and spiralling household living costs changed what people in the UK value in jobs? If so, what factors are important for people looking at jobs in 2023 and what are the implications of this for UK manufacturers?

As part of the recent InterAct Making Things Work Survey , we asked people what things they would look for in a new job. We found that the top five reasons are an interesting mix of the usual economic and non-economic (i.e. the quality of work settings) suspects. Our top 5 job choice factors are: pay and benefits; well-being and flexibility; clean and safe work settings; contractual security and stability; and having an employer who listens and values people’s opinions (voice).

The prominence of these five job quality factors is probably not surprising. Apart from the legion of Health & Safety sceptics on social media, what manufacturing workforce wouldn’t prioritize a safe and clean working environment? What is surprising is that both pay and wellbeing are rated equally highly by our sample because in survey questions of this type, pay is usually out on its own as the main reason for job choice. This makes perfect sense for those of us who don’t live to work, or who aren’t strongly morally and vocationally wedded to our labour or employer. The importance of pay and reward and these other job quality factors should never be understated: especially in competitive labour markets with shortages of people and skills.

All of these top five factors play very nicely into wider debates about job quality and what we mean by ‘good jobs’. For manufacturers, understanding what people value in jobs and tailoring the recruitment messaging towards this should keep you up and running with the talent war pack. Good jobs are essential for successful recruitment and retention. As every decent manufacturing employer knows, if people’s working needs are being supported, the better the chances are that you’ll get the talent you need for the business, be more able to keep your ‘key’ people and get performance and productivity benefits over the longer term: ‘happy people, happy customers, better productivity.

In our sample, there wasn’t too much statistical distance between the top five factors. The relative prominence of wellbeing is interesting. Although wellbeing always been a central topic in conversations about job quality, the pandemic shone a unique spotlight on health at work. Wellbeing issues have come a long way from the days when it was mainly about masking or softly managing people’s problems, or just tackled by asking people to try whistling a happy tune.

Part of our new normal seems to be having a reset on long hours culture and achieving more work-life balance. The pandemic also showed us that discussing different ways of working was not only possible but operationally practical (especially non-production staff) in manufacturing businesses, though this remains a work in progress for production staff. Take a brief look across many manufacturers’ websites today and you’ll see that most companies do explain how they support people’s wellbeing.

We know about job quality, but what are people’s perceptions about what manufacturing jobs offer? We are only at a very early stage of survey analysis and getting under the skin of the topline figures, however we can examine pay as an example.

Unfortunately, for UK manufacturers, the great British public are telling a familiar tale. The good news is that most people think that manufacturing jobs offer comparable levels of pay and benefits to those in other industries. The less great news, however, is that there are just as many who are sceptical or unsure about relative pay rates in the sector.

These figures look consistent with what we know from the past about public perceptions of manufacturing jobs in the UK and the US: that while the sector objectively pays people comparable or higher than average levels of pay, this reality doesn’t carry through into public opinion . In other words, there still seems to be a reasonable gap between what most people would want in a job and what most people think is on offer in manufacturing. This latter point also seems to hold true across all of the top five job quality factors that we outlined at the start.

Therefore, an early message from our survey may be that many people are largely uncertain about the quality manufacturers are offering in terms of jobs: a persistent perception that will influence the attractiveness of jobs in the sector. Going forward it may require more focused attention from employers, industry shakers and policy makers if they want to remake the image of jobs in the sector.

Read the first entry in the the ‘future workforces’ series: ‘advanced manufacturing & Generation Z’.

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News

Making Things Work: Public Perceptions of UK Manufacturing 2023

In February 2023, the InterAct team based in the Business School at Strathclyde University conducted an online survey asking the opinions of a representative sample of 2100 people across the UK what they think about the attractiveness of modern manufacturing jobs and careers. Their survey is topical and timely, offering academics, policy makers, trade bodies, industry commentators and employers a fresh and stimulating in-depth insight into public opinion about working in this sector at the present time and in the future.

They are primarily interested in what factors shape people’s views on UK manufacturing but we know very little about how people of different gender, ages and ethnicities look at the sector and as a potential career destination of ‘choice’. We know that manufacturing may be associated with some older perceptions of repetitive and insecure job but Industry 4.0 (advanced digital manufacturing) potentially changes future jobs and careers in the sector with a bigger emphasis on having people with innovation, problem-solving, creative and digital skills. To achieve this (and competing against other industries), advanced manufacturers will have to broaden the appeal of the sector to younger or mid-career workers, and people in under-represented groups such as women and minorities.

They asked the UK public questions on some key issues and big debates: the importance of the manufacturing sector for the wider UK economy; the ‘quality’ of manufacturing jobs; and about what work may look like in the years ahead. Will some manufacturers have to give more thought to how they invest in people and support worker engagement, wellbeing and skills? Will new advanced digital manufacturing technologies offer more interesting and rewarding jobs and careers? Alternatively, will more technologies, robotics and AI just generate concerns about jobs, downskilling and security?

These are all key questions that will resonate with a range of audiences. Our survey will stimulate debate, not just about what people think of UK manufacturing today and what factors help shape their interest, uncertainty or antipathy, but what may lie ahead when the emerging worlds of SMART factories, co-bots and augmented reality are drawing ever closer to our workspaces.

The team is looking to stimulate some further debate on the Future of Work in manufacturing. They welcome comment and opinion from a range of industry stakeholders: academics, policy makers, employers and trade unions.

The survey findings will be available in April/May 2023. Before this, they will be publishing a series of short blogs and commentary on some key future of work debates in UK manufacturing. The first of these – ‘Future Workforces – Advanced Manufacturing & Gen Z’ is now available to read.