The UK must harness the power of advanced manufacturing

UK advanced manufacturing can support sustainable regional and national economic growth, but this requires long-term political vision and commitment, according to the leaders of the UK’s five most successful manufacturing sectors.

With a general election coming up, a coalition of the UK’s leading advanced manufacturing sectors, the Manufacturing Five (M5), is calling on all political parties to unite around a long-term vision for UK manufacturing.

With a combined turnover of £309 billion, the M5 has come together to propose an essential new ‘manifesto for growth,’ which sets out the critical actions needed to drive the competitiveness and growth of innovative manufacturing.

The five-point ‘manifesto for growth’ sets out the reforms necessary for the UK to close the gap with global competitors and unlock the potential for manufacturing to drive prosperity and pride across the UK.

The plan focuses on building the workforce of tomorrow, regulating for growth, supporting innovation, leadership in sustainability, and securing Britain's place as a leading trading nation.

The report underscores the critical importance of advanced manufacturing in shaping the UK's future. It stresses the need for a coherent, long-term strategy to ensure their continued success.

Vital for the UK economy, the M5 sectors span life sciences, chemicals, food and drink, automotive, aerospace, defence, security and space, and employ nearly one million people in roles that are 46% more productive than the national average. Moreover, these sectors are responsible for over £2 out of every £5 invested in research and development (R&D) by UK businesses.

Despite these strengths, the sectors have faced disruptions and changes in operating environments, resulting in significant challenges to overcome, in addition to a new era of global competition driven by targeted national industrial strategies.

To meet these challenges head-on, any future government must play a central role by creating the conditions for UK manufacturing to thrive and innovate. This approach is essential in generating new job opportunities, supporting British innovation, and encouraging investment across all nations and regions of the UK.

The report outlines five pillars to drive sustained growth:

  1. Building the workforce of tomorrow - developing a skilled and adaptable workforce ready to meet the challenges of tomorrow.
  2. Regulation for growth - implementing policies and regulations that foster innovation and growth within the manufacturing sectors.
  3. Delivering an innovation nation - prioritising innovation as an essential element for manufacturing growth.
  4. Harnessing Britain’s place in the world - capitalising on the UK's global presence to promote its manufacturing industries.
  5. Delivering a sustainable future - working in partnership with businesses to support the transition to more sustainable manufacturing approaches.

Richard Torbett, Chief Executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), said: “As we stand at a crossroads of challenge and opportunity, our M5 sectors believe that with the right policies in place, we can turn this vision into a vibrant reality bringing economic prosperity to all corners of the UK. Capitalising on the UK’s existing strengths by committing to a long-term manufacturing strategy, we will pave the way for certainty, stability and sustained economic growth for businesses across our nation.”

Kevin Craven, Chief Executive of the ADS Group (Aerospace, Defence, Security and Space), said: “The UK’s aerospace, defence, security and space sectors are an engine of economic growth and a hub of technological breakthroughs and innovation. The rapidly evolving geopolitical landscape, the pressing need to meet the UK’s Net Zero commitments and increasing international competition have brought our sectors to a crucial turning point.

“On behalf of our 1300 members, we’re proud to support our pioneering industries as they cement the UK’s position as a global manufacturing powerhouse.”

Steve Elliott, Chief Executive of the Chemical Industries Association (CIA), said: “Businesses who make chemical products and solutions are integral to all manufactured goods. Whether it is ingredients for food and medicines; paints and coatings for cars and planes or materials for mobile phones and electric vehicle batteries, the chemical industry is truly the “industry of industries”. Our ability to supply the solutions of the future will be dependent on urgent action to deliver a more competitive investment climate for our country”.

Karen Betts, Chief Executive of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said: “Creating a long-term strategy to drive economic growth and attract investment in advanced manufacturing is critical to the health of the UK economy, which needs manufacturing to thrive.

“Driving growth and increasing investment to strengthen the UK’s food security is a priority for food and drink manufacturers, alongside accelerating the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, improvements in resource efficiency and turbocharging our exports.

“However, our industry has faced some challenging headwinds in recent years, causing costs to rise rapidly. The government must deliver an internationally competitive business environment to drive investment, boost productivity and support a secure and sustainable food system.”

Mike Hawes, Chief Executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said: “The UK is a global production powerhouse, with manufacturing supporting a million skilled jobs across the country and driving exports worldwide. As home to one of the most diverse automotive manufacturing industries in the world, Britain benefits immensely from the sector’s impact, with vehicles among the country’s most valuable export goods. A strong industrial strategy can seize the ample opportunities for economic growth, employment and decarbonisation, and support the UK’s competitiveness as a high-tech, high-value workshop for the world.” 

  • Manufacturing

Last modified: 14 November 2023

Last reviewed: 14 November 2023

[1] Manufacturing 5, ‘Advanced Manufacturing: Powering the UK Economy,’ November 2023:   

About the Manufacturing 5 (M5)
The M5 group is an informal network of the UK’s leading advanced manufacturing trade associations, which comprises: ADS Group (aerospace, defence, security and space); the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) the Chemical Industries Association (CIA); the Food and Drink Federation (FDF); the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT); The sectors our five trade associations represent contribute more than £100bn GVA annually and directly employ 940,000 people in the UK, with millions more jobs supported through our supply chains.

The ABPI exists to make the UK the best place in the world to research, develop and use new medicines. We represent companies of all sizes who invest in discovering the medicines of the future. 

Our members supply cutting edge treatments that improve and save the lives of millions of people. We work in partnership with Government and the NHS so patients can get new treatments faster and the NHS can plan how much it spends on medicines. Every day, we partner with organisations in the life sciences community and beyond to transform lives across the UK.