Re: "it's unlikely we'll see much return from all this"
Engineering jobs are there for the taking all over the UK. Manufacturing may have largely been outsourced, but a lot of the products pouring out of those offshore factories were designed here. And as wage demands continue to rise in traditional outsourcing locations such as China, bringing manufacturing back home is starting to look more attractive too.
I think the problem is that, whilst it was pretty obvious that we used to do a lot of engineering here back in the days when engineering and manufacturing were combined on the same sprawling industrial-looking site, these days your average R&D centre looks just like any other anonymous identikit office building on a commercial estate somewhere. So whilst there are still a hell of a lot of very talented people (not to forget the rest of us digging out quite comfortable careers in engineering :-) doing a hell of a lot of world-class engineering work here in the UK, we mostly just look like ordinary office workers heading off to ordinary looking offices each day, rather than proud pioneers of the brave new technological future we're helping to create for the good of humanity *fade-in inspirational orchestral theme*
As to why we're getting someone else to build our new atomic kettle, maybe it has something to do with it being close to 3 decades since we started building the last one in the UK, so unless we've been running a very hush-hush project to continue building nuclear power plants and maintain our national experience in that field, I'm not really sure who you think we should have asked to build this one?