There are seven reasons why manufacturing matters.

First, it’s a key component of our country’s future growth. Over the past ten years, the UK economy has been supercharged by strong increases in government and household spending, fuelled by debt – and you can only go on living beyond your means for so long.

Over the same period, the contribution from financial and business services to GDP has risen from 18 to nearly 25 per cent – and that game, too, is over, at least for the time being.

So other internationally traded sectors are going to have to provide the engines for growth. The two main drivers here are business investment and trade, and manufacturing is the key contributor to both. Manufacturing has a crucial part to play in getting things back into a sustainable shape.

Reason number two: there will be serious opportunities for wealth creation in this sector in the future.

A newly-competitive exchange rate will support UK manufacturers in both at home and abroad home. There is a strong chance that trade will be much more positive from now on, with manufacturing playing a leading role.

At the same time, there will be massive scope for infrastructure investment within the UK over the next few years. We have to rebuild a large chunk of our power generating capacity. Our transport infrastructure also requires major investment. The shift to a low carbon economy will also create opportunities.

The key question is whether the UK is going to capture the intellectual property and high value jobs that will be created.

Reason number three: improvements in our living standards depend upon rising national productivity – and here manufacturing is the powerhouse of UK. We have some of the most competitive manufacturing plants in the world.

The makeup of the manufacturing workforce has changed dramatically in recent years; it’s a lot more skilled, with a lot more qualifications.

These high value jobs are spread right across the UK, and the social cohesion which results is a fourth reason that manufacturing matters.

Reason number five: the UK has strong comparative advantages in key areas of high value manufacturing.

Reason number six: the support of the manufacturing sector plays a vital role in Britain’s world leading university and research infrastructure.

And the seventh and final reason why manufacturing matters is that it’s part of our national identity and pride. But we must cherish and preserve our heritage of engineering and design excellence, and our manufacturing skills.

However, despite its strengths, British manufacturing remains very fragile in today’s global context.

Over the past quarter century, UK policymakers have tended to regard the manufacturing sector with a kind of studied indifference. However, the value of a diverse and balanced economy has now been recognised, and we’ve learnt about the importance of manufacturing for jobs and sustainable growth, and about the importance of taking a strategic approach to industrial policy in areas like skills, tax, planning, and regulation.

And it’s important that politicians have come to understand that without strategic support, critically important sectors of our manufacturing industry will disappear.

The political parties are now preparing their manifestos for the general election. Business needs to be urging them to take a more strategic approach to industrial policy; to restore fiscal stability by curbing spending; to help build diverse and competitive energy markets for the future; and to find ways of supporting the export sectors and increasing the share of business investment in gdp.