Research project

ESRC, Manufacturing Renaissance in Industrial Regions

Project overview

Manufacturing in the UK is facing a turbulent and critical period. Many industries are being reshaped by technological and market change, at the same as they face the difficulties and uncertainties produced by Brexit. The viability of advanced manufacturing industries depend not only on individual firm performance but also how these firms are embedded in local 'ecosystems' or contexts that either enable or constrain their productivity and growth. This project examines the geographies of advanced manufacturing industries and how they have changed in recent years in order to understand whether supportive local ecosystems and clusters continue to exist and if so how they can be best promoted and supported.

Policy and academic debates about the potential of advanced manufacturing in traditional industrial regions have tended to be limited by a lack of evidence on key trends in the geographies of these industries, and whether it is desirable, realistic or indeed possible to rebuild and strengthen clusters and localised manufacturing systems in these regions. The project will provide a detailed evidence base about what has happened to advanced manufacturing in the UK and how its geographies have changed. It will also examine how advanced manufacturing activities across Britain have evolved and adapted, and the developments that have taken place in relatedness between these activities and in in local and other supply chains.

The project addresses these key questions:

How has the geography of advanced manufacturing industries changed, and where and why have these industries grown and declined? How have they fared in traditional industrial regions and cities?
What are the key determinants and causes of the performance and productivity of firms in these manufacturing industries and do they vary significantly by region?
Are manufacturing industries showing the development of localized/regionalized 'ecosystems' and are these more developed in some regions than others?
What policy and institutional measures are required for the support of advanced manufacturing in the regions, and is there more that the new industrial strategy could do to encourage its renaissance?
The project is using a mix of statistical and micro-data sources on firm performance together with a firm survey, interviews and focus groups to examine the geographical, organisational and economic dynamics of four key manufacturing industries: electrical, computing and optical equipment; aerospace; pharmaceuticals; and motor vehicles.


Lead researcher

Professor Peter Sunley

Professor in Human Geography
Connect with Peter

Collaborating research institutes, centres and groups

Research outputs

Peter Sunley, Jack L. Harris, Andy Pike, Richard Harris, Ron Martin & Emil Evenhuis, 2022, Local Economy: The Journal of the Local Economy Policy Unit, 37(5), 403-418
Type: article
Peter Sunley, Emil Evenhuis, Jack Harris, Richard Harris, Ron Martin & Andy Pike, 2021, Regional Studies
Type: article
Peter Sunley, Jack Harris, Emil Evenhuis, Ron Martin, Andy Pike & Richard Harris, 2020, Local Economy, 35(4), 403-415
Type: article
Emil Evenhuis, Peter Sunley, Richard Harris, John Moffat, Ron Martin & Andy Pike, 2019, Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 12(3), 467-487
Type: article