Survey shows UK photonics manufacturers still largely productive

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Initial results of a survey conducted by the Photonics Leadership Group (PLG) show that 85 per cent of UK manufacturing organisations have been able to continue production during the coronavirus pandemic, with half of these organisations reporting only a minor impact capacity.

The impact has been more severe among those providing high value services, particularly to acoustics, where one third of firms report more than a 50 per cent drop in short-term turnover.

200 people have taken part in the survey so far, with it remaining open for additional input. 

The UK government has a number of initiatives in place to help support businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic, including job retention schemes, grants and a £1.25bn fund for high-growth innovative/tech sector firms to ensure they can access capital. 'The strong resilience of photonics and acoustics is being demonstrated by half of all photonics companies and one quarter of acoustics organisations indicating they have no intention to apply for support [from the UK government],' the PLG reported.  Seven out of ten respondents overall indicated they were making use of, or intend to make use of, one or more of the UK government business support schemes, with 1 in 20 indicating they had difficulties securing support.

Across all photonics and acoustics organisation it is the impact on the order pipeline that is causing greatest concern, PLG's analysis showed, with many reporting a significant lengthening of the sales cycle and difficulty closing new orders. More than half of all manufacturing organisations also highlight difficulties in importing key components in their top three challenges.

Looking to the future, the general prevalence of uncertainty is supported by ~20 per cent of respondents stating that it is too early to predict what the impact will be in a years time. However, where people did express an opinion, ~30 per cent currently predict business turnover and investment will return or even increase over pandemic levels in a years time. The potential for the pandemic disruption to foster new innovations is supported by one half of all respondents predicting new product development plans will remain the same or even increase.

More than half of photonics and acoustics organisation reported that, aside from the obvious lifting of the stay-at-home measures, the ability to have face-to-face meetings and access to customers will be important to getting back to pre-virus business levels. Nevertheless, nine out of ten respondents still predict a significant increase in remote/home working and the use of virtual remote meetings in the longer term.

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