UK manufacturing output now worth £192bn – world’s ninth largest manufacturer

Posted on 16 Sep 2019 by Jonny Williamson

The annual analysis of the sector published by Make UK and Santander demonstrates the vital importance of manufacturing to the success of the UK economy overall.

Manufacturing accounts for two-thirds of overall research and development (R&D), almost half (45%) of total exports, and 15% of business investment.


The sector provides 2.7 million jobs – many of which are high value and highly skilled. The latest analysis also smashes the myth that careers in industry are badly paid (something The Manufacturer has long been championing).

The average salary in manufacturing is £33,592 – compared to £29,832 for the whole economy and way above services at £29,014.

By sector size, Food & Drink remains the single biggest sector contributing 15.1% of GVA worth roughly £73.1bn, closely followed by transport (14.9% worth £72.1bn), and Pharmaceuticals & Chemicals (14.2% worth £68.7bn).

By region, the North West is the biggest single by output, worth £28.5bn, closely followed by London and the South East worth £28.1bn.

International trade

While the US is the single biggest export market for UK manufactured goods and services, worth £118.2bn, exports to the top seven EU markets alone amounted to £236.5bn in the same period (£256.1bn including Switzerland) – more than double the value of those to the US.


WHERE UK EXPORTS GO - infographic courtesy of Make UK

Broken down by sector the export picture of manufactured goods is dominated by Transport (25.5%) and Pharmaceuticals & Chemicals (17.9%), which highlight the importance of these high value added sectors to the success of UK industry overall, the aerospace and automotive sectors in particular.

The importance of the top two dominant exporting sectors is also reflected in contributions to business R&D where Pharmaceuticals & Chemicals and the Transport sector accounted for almost 70% of the total spend between them.

The Transport sector also led the way in export growth increasing by 7.4%, largely on the back of continued growth in Aerospace, closely followed by Food & Drink which increased  exports by 5.3%.

Seamus Nevin, chief economist at Make UK, commented: “These figures lay bare the overwhelming importance for manufacturers of trade with our closest market and the need to avoid imposing any barriers which will make this more difficult.

“While the United States remains the biggest market and, presents significant opportunities for export growth, it is a fallacy to believe that geography is not the biggest factor driving trade. For UK manufacturers access to their biggest market must be a premium.

“The figures also provide an important reminder that we’re still one of the top ten biggest manufacturing nations and we want to see policy makers working with industry to help move UK manufacturing up the rankings.”

Paul Brooks, UK head of Manufacturing at Santander, said: “The UK has always punched well above its weight when it comes to exports and it’s vital this trend continues – jobs across the UK count on it.

“While we are helping businesses build strong trade links with partners around the world, the message from manufacturers is clear: Europe must remain a strong trade ally. We’ll continue to support the UK to hold its position as a major global economy and exporter.”

Santander is the headline sponsor of The Manufacturer MX Awards 2019 – the year’s largest celebration of UK manufacturing. 

Click here for more information and to book your ticket

Almost 50 of Britain’s top manufacturing companies have made it through to the finals of the UK’s largest and most rigorous industry awards programme – click here to view them all.