UK goods: 'Not made in Britain'

February 8, 2011

British owned firms, says The University of Manchester based ESRC Centre for Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC), employ an average of 14 workers and are mainly too small to export their goods.

The study challenges the City view that ownership does not matter, because the pattern of ownership has created a ‘new British disease’ of broken supply chains.

Large technology based, civil market dominating and British-headquartered manufacturing firms such, as British Aerospace, pharmacology companies and Rolls Royce are an exception to the rule.

Shareholder value plus ‘inept privatisation’ damaged GEC, ICI and other large companies says the authors.

Nowadays, they argue, the average British owned manufacturing firm employs 14 workers and manufacture products which move up the supply chain.

firms lack the structural position and capabilities to build capacity and are vulnerable to investment decisions taken overseas. The successful exceptions cannot now build a high British content heavy engineering product they say.

Sukhdev Johal from Royal Holloway University of London said: “ The measure of the problem is the JCB digger. This is an exceptional story of product success for a British owned engineering firm but the company cannot source more than 36% of their digger by value from the UK.

“If we look more broadly across engineering, half of intermediate purchases are imported by UK manufacturers, compared with one third In Germany.

“Unless we fix this problem, the benefits of any renaissance of British manufacturing will leak abroad to mainly West European suppliers.”

CRESC Director Prof Karel Williams from The University of Manchester said: “The Coalition government , like its New Labor predecessor, has high hopes for well managed British firms in sunrise high tech manufacturing.

“But that doesn’t engage with the problems about the fragmented networks of small firms which dominate UK manufacturing.”

CRESC research shows British manufacturing is increasingly dominated by small workshops: the number of factories employing more than 200 people has halved to 2,000 since 1979.

Three-quarters of manufacturing employment is now in workshops employing 10 or less workers and the number of such workshops has doubled in the past 25 years.

The CRESC report proposes a new policy approach of sector wide tax incentives for firms to increase output, invest in capacity and up skill their workforce.

Professor Williams added: “The problem with cutting corporation tax for all firms, as the Chancellor proposes, is that you give away money to lots of firms who do what they were going to do anyway.

“Much better to target the financial assistance on changing the behavior of small and medium manufacturers”.

Explore further: Researchers call for a price cap on cigarette profits

More information: The report is available on the CRESC website:

Related Stories

Exports may not rescue UK economy

October 14, 2008

Hopes that the plunging pound may boost UK exports have been questioned by new research into currency movements.

The stress of work becomes social issue

November 1, 2010

The sharp rise in work stress in Britain is becoming a major social problem in the current economic crisis, a new British Academy report has found.

Small firms driving job creation

March 31, 2010

Britain's small businesses are likely to create almost two thirds of the country's jobs in an average year, a major new study has revealed.

Modern society made up of all types

November 4, 2010

Modern society has an intense interest in classifying people into ‘types’, according to a University of Melbourne Cultural Historian, leading to potentially catastrophic life-changing outcomes for those typed – ...

Recommended for you

Predicting the future with the wisdom of crowds

June 23, 2017

Forecasters often overestimate how good they are at predicting geopolitical events—everything from who will become the next pope to who will win the next national election in Taiwan.

UN says world population will reach 9.8 billion in 2050

June 22, 2017

India's population is expected to surpass China's in about seven years and Nigeria is projected to overtake the United States and become the third most populous country in the world shortly before 2050, a U.N. report said ...

Authenticity key to landing a new job

June 22, 2017

At job interviews, relax and be yourself - if you're good, being yourself may be the best way to secure a job offer, according to a new study involving UCL researchers.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Feb 08, 2011
UK is Northern Ireland + Britain
not rated yet Feb 10, 2011
UK is Northern Ireland + Britain

Not Scotland? Are the scots in a different situation?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.