Manufacturing vital to the future of island’s economy



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Chris Allen, chairman of the Isle of Man Chamber of Commerce Manufacturing and Technical Industries (MTI) Committee and general manager at Triumph Actuation Systems (UK and IOM) based in Onchanlooks at how the manufacturing sector can develop further in the next decade, and in doing so play a key role supporting Government’s Vision 2020 strategy.

‘High tech will be a high priority in the 2020 world’.

Chris Allen.

Chris Allen.

That’s the key message for manufacturing in the Government’s Vision 2020 strategy, which also sets a goal to make the island a centre of excellence in this sector.

Chamber’s MTI committee was consulted by Government on the manufacturing section of Vision 2020, and we believe that the island is already well on the way towards achieving its goals, with many manufacturing businesses here already recognised as global players.

We also welcomed recognition in Vision 2020 for the success of the island’s ‘cluster’ approach in which groups of businesses in specialist industries work together to achieve outcomes that benefit the sector as a whole.

The best illustration of this is the Aerospace Cluster – an MTI sub-committee group – which provides a forum for joint working, sharing of intelligence, introducing new technology, networking, learning and initiatives specific to aerospace.

The island also has an emerging new cluster of businesses involved in the production of optics and specialist coatings where collaboration is delivering growth.

Other manufacturers are succeeding in diverse niches such as bespoke bathroom/kitchens, thermostatic controls for water heating appliances, electronic controls, diving equipment and body composition monitors to name a few.

The collaborative approach works well because it is perfectly suited to a small economy in which businesses can achieve significant benefits from pooling knowledge in common areas of concern.

It has particular benefits in the field of manufacturing where the pace of technical and scientific change is so rapid.

Continuing this approach will play a major part in achieving the Vision 2020 goals, but it needs continued support from Government.

Business leaders in the manufacturing sector have identified that Government strategic focus is also required in the following key areas: ·

Policy and legislation

The island potentially has a massive advantage over competitor jurisdictions because we can set our own policies and legislation and, by making the right decisions in this area, encourage growth.

However, we must ensure that a coherent cross-Government strategy exists where all departments work together in support of Vision 2020, and there needs to be greater engagement with the sector.


Skills availability is a constraint to growth and, for some businesses, long term sustainability. As a sector, we have pushed for a supportive educational strategy aligned with the specific needs of industry.

We have seen some recent successes in this area through the collaborative efforts of Departments of Economic Development, and Education and Children, and the Engineering Sector skills group (a Chamber MTI sub-committee) with the opening of the new Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre at Hills Meadow and the William Kennish Building at Isle of Man College.

Provision of the right technical courses and standards of equipment and tuition will continue to be a priority. ·


There are higher base costs for establishing a manufacturing business here.

Manufacturers therefore have to develop specific strategies to overcome this. For some it has been providing for a niche market, and for others it has been a high added value strategy.

Appropriate advanced technology is at the heart of both.

Businesses need easy access to funding and emergent technologies.

For the latter, the island needs to forge links with technology developers and universities, also our people need to attend technology exhibitions and visit examples of best practice.

Support in this area is linked to education and training but goes beyond that with regard to Government’s strategic links with the right universities and other regional relationships off-Island.


Manufacturing has specific needs. We need security and reliability of distribution links on and off-island as our customers demand on time delivery with no interruption.

The sector has specific requirements for power, utilities, and waste disposal to name a few.

We have a number of collaborative projects with Government today and will need on-going engagement.

Strategic plan

Manufacturing needs the All Island Strategic Plan to consider the sector’s future growth needs with the provision of land zoned for industrial use, technology parks and training facilities.

Manufacturing is not centred around Douglas, it is represented in locations across the island and offers valuable employment opportunities.

Government needs to continue to work with the sector to identify and provision for future requirements.

The success that the manufacturing sector has achieved thus far is due in no small measure to co-operation between Government and the private sector, and by businesses co-operating to resolve common issues via representative bodies such as the MTI committee.

Working together we can address the issues outlined above, and succeed in achieving the goals set out for the sector in Vision 2020.

To find out more about Isle of Man Chamber of Commerce go to or phone 674941.

For more information about the MTI committee, contact Chris Allen by emailing or phoning 692000.

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