The seemingly declining manufacturing industry in the UK presents a great opportunity for the gases business and it should be the industry’s aim to inspire a revival through added value and value creation.

That was the view of BOC Managing Director Mike Huggon, boldly expressed yesterday at the BCGA (British Compressed Gases Association) 2012 Conference.

During a day full of pertinent, passionate presentations, Huggon gave arguably the most impassioned keynote speech of the day as he took to the stage and challenged many of the commonly found notions in the UK today.

Among them, Huggon questioned acceptance that manufacturing is a dying sector in the UK and also argued the case that clean, green initiatives in the energy sector are in fact an area of potential growth for the gases industry.

“We do have choices. In the energy sector we could say, what a fantastic opportunity we have with wind farms, carbon capture, and waste-to-fuels. What an investment opportunity, what a growth opportunity”

Mike Huggon, Managing Director of BOC

Describing the ‘energy trilemma’ that we are faced with, notably the security of supply, the environment and the economics, Huggon added, “Energy is a huge challenge for our industry. Our spend in terms of power is huge.”

“We do have choices. In the energy sector we could say, what a fantastic opportunity we have with wind farms, carbon capture, and waste-to-fuels. What an investment opportunity, what a growth opportunity.”

Turning his passion to the declining manufacturing sector and the role of the gases industry, Huggon emphasised the need to focus on value and added value to a near record audience at the Oulton Hall venue in Leeds, UK. AS he sees it, the challenge is there to be taken – and the gas and equipment community has the innovation to meet that challenge.

“Do we just accept that we’re in a declining [UK] manufacturing industry? Or do we look to create value, to add value? Let’s race to the top of the industry rather than battling at the bottom of the industry.”

“We need to work up the cycle, we need to get away from talking about the costs of a product and start talking about the value of that product. Our industry does create value – and we need to focus more on that in the future”

“We have chosen to de-industrialise the UK. We didn’t see a manufacturing industry as being important to us. We saw a financial services-based future – and now we’re paying the penalty. Manufacturing will give us a robust future, we need to get behind it,” he urged.

“There is growth there; we need to work hard to find it, and we need to work hard to sustain it. We have those niches in our manufacturing industry that we have to look to sustain and support. There is a challenge there, and we have to take that on.”

“We need to provide the innovative solutions. It’s difficult to persuade people outside of the UK to invest in R&D inside the UK. We have to do that ourselves, we have to get behind R&D.”

“Part of the challenge we have,” Huggon continued, “is that we need to work up the cycle, we need to get away from talking about the costs of a product and start talking about the value of that product. Our industry does create value – and we need to focus more on that in the future.”

With a sense of widespread agreement and confidence emanating throughout the room, a quite clearly proud and captivating Huggon concluded, “Join us in the race to the top, rather than the battle at the bottom.”