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The majority of Britain’s manufacturers (52.7%) are now viewing the UK as a more competitive place to locate their activities, compared to just 31% one year ago. While less than one-fifth (16.6%) believe the UK is not a competitive place in which to manufacture.

These findings come from Make UK and PwC’s Executive Survey 2024, published today, which polled more than two hundred senior manufacturing executives. It shows that after a very difficult few years through the pandemic and the shock to energy prices, there are optimistic signs with companies more bullish about the prospects for manufacturing in 2024. 

More than four-fifths (44.4%) believe that conditions in the sector will improve, with only one in five believing the contrary. While an increasing number also believe the UK is becoming more competitive than its European rivals.

As a result, manufacturers – who are now seeing opportunities outweigh the risks to their firms - are backing this belief with investment in new products, expansion into new markets and acceleration of the use of new digital technologies to improve their business. The adoption of the latter in particular is seen by 71.2% of firms as a way to boost operational efficiency, while more than half (52.2%) see generative AI increasing their workforces’ productivity.

The last few years have been a rollercoaster of emotions for manufacturers, yet they have more than demonstrated their resilience time after time. We are now seeing some hope that conditions may be improving, amid a more supportive and stable policy environment, but this must be cemented within a long-term industrial strategy.

While undoubted challenges remain, the accelerating use of digital technologies, our strength in innovation and expansion into new markets sets the scene for manufacturing to be at the heart of efforts to boost growth.

Stephen Phipson Chief Executive, Make UK

After what has been a rocky few years for manufacturers, it seems there is a cautious optimism in the air. In fact, our research showed that in the year ahead, more than half of them are planning to seize opportunities in new products, with more than a quarter (27.3%) hoping to explore uncharted territory, and expand into new markets.

For many, despite January's to-do list likely looming large, as the headwinds of sustained economic challenges, geopolitical instability, and steep employment and energy costs continue, the horizon seems brighter.

Cara Haffrey Leader of Manufacturing at PwC

Join the webinar on Tuesday 16th January to discuss manufacturers’ views on the year ahead.

The panel will include Make UK, PwC, and member company Tees Components, chaired by Michael O’Dwyer, Chief UK Business Correspondent, Financial Times.

Sign up for free here >

Download the Make UK/PWC Executive Survey 2024