UK Manufacturing Statistics

Despite the decline since the 1970s, when manufacturing contributed 25% of UK GDP, the UK is currently the ninth largest manufacturing nation in the world.

Overall, the UK’s industrial sector has increased by 1.4% a year since 1948, according to a recent report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS attributes the sustained growth to a better quality; more skilled workforce; a shift in production from low to high productivity goods; improvements in automation and technology; increased investment in R&D, and a more integrated global economy.

According to Make UK (formerly EEF), UK manufacturing currently:

  • employs 2.7 million people – earning an average of £32,500
  • contributes 11% of GVA
  • accounts for 45% of total exports – totalling £275bn
  • represents 69% of business research and development (R&D)
  • provides 13% of business investment

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Although the contribution of manufacturing to GDP has declined on paper, many of the services provided to manufacturers which would have once been considered part of manufacturing – such as catering; cleaning; building services; security; logistics and so on – are now allocated into different areas of the economy.

However, those contributions are directly reliant on manufacturing for continued business and could actually be considered as a part of manufacturing’s GDP input. As such, many are calling for the true value of manufacturing to be recognised, a move which would see the widely cited figure of 10% of GVA more than doubling to 23%.

Britain is the 9th largest manufacturer in the world by output - EEF.Make UK Factcard 2019

UK Balance of Trade:


Key findings from the Annual Manufacturing Report 2019:

Every year Hennik Research publishes the Annual Manufacturing Report. Below are the key findings from the 2019 report (released in February 2019).


The Annual Manufacturing Report 2019 reflects a surprisingly resilient mood among UK manufacturers; surprising that is to those who haven’t been paying attention.


  • 81% say they are ready to invest in new digital technologies to boost productivity.
  • 71% of UK manufacturers say Brexit is damaging strategic-planning and business prospects
  • 64% say Brexit will cause chaos for the manufacturing sector
  • 55% say the government could do more to promote exports
  • 57% say the education system is a disaster for industry and needs a total overhaul
  • 66% say the British people do not understand the importance of manufacturing to the economy

 The Annual Manufacturing Report 2019 has five sections: Government Policy & Industrial Strategy; Financing Investment; Skills & Training; Growth & Exports, and Smart Factory. 

  1. SMART FACTORY: Huge potential, but clear strategy and strong leadership required

The sponsor of the Smart Factory section of the report, which measured attitudes to the potential of digital technologies, is PwC. Their Industrial Manufacturing & Automotive Leader Cara Haffey says it is not just Brexit uncertainty that is causing many manufacturers to hesitate over investing in technologies that could transform their businesses.

“Aside from the obvious issue of investment, what’s holding companies back from digital investment?” she says. “The main blockers appear to be a lack of coherent digital strategies and the inability for organisations to understand what practical applications some of these technologies offer within their organisation. Indeed, the Made Smarter Review, 2017, cites an inability to understand what ‘good’ looks like as one reason for low adoption rates among UK businesses.”

  1. GOVERNMENT POLICY & INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY: Faith in government policy is weak but sector resilience solid

A heavy majority of manufacturers say their strategic planning is being put at risk, and many believe manufacturing will be plunged into chaos by Brexit. Of course, we cannot know what will happen post-March 29, which is precisely the problem: no-one knows.

The Manufacturer’s Nick Peters says, “Perhaps the statistic we should take most comfort from is the overwhelming belief among manufacturers – 77% of them – that we have the drive to succeed as a nation. That self-belief should serve us well – it must serve us well – in the year ahead.”

  1. SKILLS & TRAINING: Manufacturing employers are hungry for skilled engineers, but a lack of them is causing indigestion 

The sector faces a further crisis in the form of a looming skills gap, with older members of the workforce retiring and an insufficient number of properly trained young people emerging from the education system.

The situation is so bad that companies are now establishing their own training schemes and academies.

The sponsor of the Skills & Training section is Autodesk. Asif Moghal, Senior Industry Manager, Manufacturing Business Strategy & Marketing at Autodesk says, “How much more evidence must there be before it is accepted the current approach to our national skills issue is not working? The fact that industry is developing its own home-grown solutions is saddening but simultaneously motivating, because it could be the basis of a bold new way forward.”

  1. GROWTH & EXPORTS: Growth is not a nice-to-have, but a business basic 

When it comes to business growth, particularly through exports, manufacturers still believe there is potential for growth overseas and a strong majority, 77%, say UK manufacturing has the drive to make a success of it.

The sponsor of the Growth & Exports section is digital solutions provider Epicor Software whose regional vice president, UK and Ireland, Mark Hughes says the future of manufacturing lies in the right people working with the right systems. He also believes Brexit offers an opportunity long term.

“The performance of the British manufacturing sector is on an upward trend. The ongoing digitisation of the sector has a key role to play in this growth as manufacturers are realising the potential of Industry 4.0. Brexit actually has the potential to bring significant opportunities to British manufacturing. It used to be more cost-effective to outsource various elements of the manufacturing process off-shore. Current and future technological advances mean that now more than ever before, on-shore is a truly viable option and “Made in Britain” will be key to helping Britain stay on top.”

  1. FINANCING INVESTMENT: Investing in uncertainty in an age of doubt 

The Annual Manufacturing Report makes it clear there is still a hangover from the crash of 2008, with manufacturers reluctant to seek bank funding for investment. A majority, 64%, say they prefer to finance investment from their own resources rather than borrowing.

The section on Financing Investment is sponsored by the business intelligence solutions company Board International. Their Manufacturing Lead Alan Bagnall says, “As always, the Manufacturer’s Annual Report provides valuable insights for the manufacturing sector. With uncertainty being the only certainty right now, it is clear that innovation and technology that enables timely strategic decision-making is vital.”

Dive deeper into each section’s findings and our analysis of them by downloading the full report.

Statistics by sector:

The aim of the buy-back is to reduce the issued share capital of the company, aiding the enhance of returns for shareholders.

British Aerospace at a glance

  • 128,000+ direct jobs // 140,000 indirect jobs
  • £31bn annual turnover
  • 30% productivity growth in the past five years
  • 39% growth since 2010
  • 18% global market share – largest in Europe and second globally to the US
  • 90% of turnover to export markets – worth £26bn
  • Almost a decade’s worth of work in hand, with an order book of more than 13,000 aircraft worth up to £195bn to the UK

(Information courtesy of

McLaren Automotive posts successive sales record 2015British Automotive at a glance

  • 169,000+ direct jobs // 78,000 employed across UK supply chain
  • 25,000 new jobs to be created to cover the production of connected and autonomous vehicles
  • 2,000+ automotive suppliers in the UK – including 18 of world’s top 20
  • £71.6bn annual turnover
  • 80% of a vehicle can be manufactured in the UK
  • Annually adds £12.4+bn to the UK economy
  • Annually producing £34.3bn of exports – accounting for 12% of the UK’s total export goods

(Information courtesy of

Bethany Thomas (aged 23), reactor chemistry engineer at EDF Energy.

British Chemical & Pharmaceutical at a glance

  • 105,000 (Chemical) and 53,000 (Pharmaceutical) direct jobs // 500,000 indirect jobs
  • 30,000 employed in related R&D (7,000 – Chemical, and 23,000 – Pharmaceutical)
  • Annually adds £15.2bn to the UK economy
  • Adds £60m to the UK balance of trade every day
  • UK’s largest manufacturing export sector (£24.7bn – Chemical and £20.7bn – Pharmaceutical)
  • CIA members have a combined turnover of £50bn

(Information courtesy of

Case Construction Equipment Wheel LoaderBritish Construction at a glance

  • 1m direct jobs // annually provides upwards of 80,000 new job opportunities
  • Employs just under 200,000 women in the sector
  • Annually adds £92bn+ to the UK economy – represents 6,4% of the total economic output
  • 35+% of construction employees run their own companies
  • More than a quarter of employers have recruited a school leaver in the past 2-3 years
  • Almost 50% of employers in the building services engineering industry take part in the modern apprenticeship scheme

(Information courtesy of

BAE Systems Typhoon in the air – aerospace is the UK defence industry’s largest exporter.

British Defence at a glance

  • 142,000 direct employees // Almost the same number in indirect jobs
  • Employs 4,300+ apprentices and trainees
  • £24bn annual turnover
  • 18% growth since 2010
  • The UK is the world’s second biggest defence exporter behind the US, generating an average of £7,7bn for the UK every year
  • 34% export growth between 2009 – 2013
  • 9,000+ defence companies including SMEs exist in the UK
  • BAE Systems – the UK’s largest defence company – currently employs 40,000 domestically

(Information courtesy of

PP Electrical FittingBritish Electronics at a glance

  • 800,000+ direct jobs
  • £78bn annual turnover
  • 95%+ of the sectors 6,000 businesses are SMEs
  • UK Electronics is the world’s fifth largest in terms of production
  • 14 of the world’s top 20 semiconductor companies have established design and/or manufacturing sites in the UK
  • In semiconductors, almost 80% of the activity comes from foreign direct investment

(Information courtesy of

Natural Gas FlameBritish Energy at a glance

  • 137,000 direct jobs // 500,000 indirect jobs
  • Annually adds £5.5bn to the UK economy
  • The energy sector reduced its carbon emissions by 13% in 2015
  • Generation output from renewable sources increased by 30% from 2014 to 2015
  • Invested £18bn in infrastructure, generation, distribution, metering and customer service during 2015

(Information courtesy of

Aunt Bessie factory

British Food & Drink at a glance

  • 400,000 direct jobs – predicted to need almost 110,000 new recruits by 2022
  • Annually adds £21.9bn to the UK economy
  • Accounts for 16% of total UK manufacturing turnover – making it the largest sector
  • Productivity has increased by 11% over the past five years
  • 96% of the sector’s 6,360 businesses are micro to medium-sized
  • Exports worth £12.8bn a year – 77% of which go to the EU

(Information courtesy of

Nuclear (L2).1British Nuclear at a glance

  • 63,000+ direct jobs // 80,000+ indirect jobs
  • Companies in the UK nuclear industry have the capability to provide 80+% of the work involved in new nuclear power station projects
  • 16 reactors on nine sites currently supplies 19% of the UK’s electricity
  • Over the next two decades, it is forecast that globally there will be £930bn investment in constructing new reactors and £250bn in decommissioning those coming off-line
  • There are currently 15 operational reactors across the UK

(Information courtesy of

Recycled plastic polymersBritish Plastics at a glance

  • 170,000+ direct jobs
  • £23.5bn annual turnover
  • 6,200 companies in the sector
  • 35% of manufactured plastics products exported – valued at £6.7bn
  • 1.7m tonnes of plastics materials produced annually – 3.3m tonnes of plastics materials recylced

(Information courtesy of

Cyber Security Attack Hack Data CrimeBritish Security at a glance

  • 76,0,00 direct jobs
  • £9bn annual turnover
  • 65% growth since 2010
  • The UK is the world’s sixth largest exporter of security equipment
  • Average exports worth £2.9bn to the UK
  • Benefits include national infrastructure; cyber security; policing and counter-terrorism; border security, and major event security.

(Information courtesy of

Liberty House to reopen Tredegar steelworks

British Steel at a glance

  • 30,000 direct jobs
  • 54% of UK Steel workers work in Yorkshire and the Humber, or Wales
  • Annually adds £9.5bn to the UK economy
  • Exports worth £4.9bn in 2013
  • 1m tonnes of output in 2014
  • The value of the industry has declined by almost a quarter (24%) since 1990
  • More waste steel is recovered in the UK and recycled than all other materials combined
  • Each tonne of scrap recycled by the industry saves 1.9 tonnes of iron ore and 0.6 tonnes of coal

(Information courtesy of

Image courtesy of ESA/NASABritish Space at a glance

  • 34,000+ direct jobs // 72,000+ indirect jobs
  • £11bn annual turnover
  • Growing at more than 8% a year
  • Exports worth ££4bn to the UK
  • Achieved 27% growth since 2010
  • Largest application is broadcasting, followed by telecommunications
  • Services support disaster relief; telemedicine; navigation, and broadcasting

(Information courtesy of

RESIZE Fabrics

British Textile at a glance

  • 340,000+ direct jobs across 79,000+ companies
  • Annually adds £11.5bn+ to the UK economy
  • Gross value added (GVA) per head measured at an average of £34,220
  • Third-largest fashion employer in the EU – behind Italy and Germany
  • British consumers spend annually almost £55bn on the high street

(Information courtesy of