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North West continues to lead UK manufacturing

New annual figures show the UK’s manufacturing sector has risen one place in the world rankings despite difficult economic conditions, with the North West leading the way.

Over the last year-and-a-half, the Growth Hub has played a key role in aiding the sector in Greater Manchester through its specialist one-to-one support for manufacturing SMEs. Over 170 businesses received advice and guidance from our team of expert advisors between January 2022 and September 2023, creating more than 100 jobs and over £10 million in new sales in the process.

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Make UK’s new edition of Manufacturing – The Facts, its annual summary of the sector, places UK manufacturing eighth in the world for output, overtaking France and now just behind Italy.

Overall, the sector’s output was worth £224 billion in 2022. Food and drink, usually the single biggest manufacturing sub-sector by value, was equalled last year by chemicals and pharmaceuticals at 15 per cent of gross value added (GVA) each.

These two industries were also in the top three sub-sectors receiving the most investment in 2022 with a combined £10bn, behind engineering and vehicles at £15.7bn.

Internationally, six of the top ten export markets for UK goods remained in the EU, although the largest single destination by value was the US at £56.7bn. The Netherlands (£37bn) leapfrogged Germany (£33 billion) and Ireland (£30bn) into second place compared to last year’s figures. China (£27bn) beat France (25.8bn) to fifth place, despite increasing concerns about the geopolitical risks of trading with the country.

Aerospace and transport saw the largest growth in exports at 27.9 per cent, followed by food and drink (23 per cent) and metals (18.1 per cent).

Regionally, the North West maintained its long-standing position as the UK’s biggest manufacturing area by contributing more value to the sector than any other region at £28.2bn, as well as employing the most people at 314,000.

GC Business Growth Hub was part financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) 2014-2021, as part of a portfolio of ERDF-funded programmes designed to help ambitious SME businesses achieve growth and increase employment in Greater Manchester. Eligibility criteria was applied. The 2014-2021 ERDF  fund was allocated by the European Union that finances convergence, regional competitiveness and employment and territorial co-operation.

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), formerly the Department for Communities and Local Government was the managing authority for the European Regional Development Fund Programme, which was one of the funds established by the European Commission to help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support local businesses and create jobs. For more information, visit European Regional Development Fund: Documents and Guidance - GOV.UK (

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