North East Connected

North East Continues to Lead the Way for Manufacturing

The North East is no stranger to success when it comes to the manufacturing industry. Our region boasts an advanced manufacturing sector that contributes over 15% of its GVA (Gross Value Added) and 11.3% of the area’s employment. With the North East Local Enterprise Partnership aiming to increase the number of local jobs by a staggering 100,000 by the year 2024, this progress doesn’t seem set to slow down.  

Thanks to the growth of smart manufacturing, the sector is booming all over Europe. Smart manufacturing refers to the use of digitalisation and automation to transform the industry, from the introduction of robotics in factories to the development of a cloud-based order management system to help small businesses streamline their operations. 

But even with this continental growth, the North East is still firmly cemented as one of the UK’s manufacturing centres. This article will take a closer look at the North East’s manufacturing industry and explore where it might take us in the future. 

What does the North East manufacture? 

Businesses throughout the North East manufacture all kinds of goods, from food and packaging to furniture and homewares. But did you know that its industry is particularly known for the production of pharmaceuticals and vehicles? 


The pharmaceuticals sector is one of the most important in the world, providing life-saving treatment to those who need it. In the North East, the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals brought a total of £868 million to our regional economy in 2017 – so it’s no surprise that David Cameron described the sector as ‘the jewel in the crown’ of the UK’s economy. 

With pharma giants such as GlaxoSmithKline operating in Barnard Castle, there’s little doubt that the North East is at the centre of ground-breaking manufacturing research. 


Nissan Motor Manufacturing in Sunderland is the North East’s largest company, bringing in a total annual turnover of £5.2 billion. 510,000 vehicles and 325,000 engines are currently produced in the region, which works out as one in three of all the cars in the United Kingdom. As well as passenger cars, the region also manufactures heavy-duty transport such as trains and off-road vehicles. 

As the vehicle industry strives to become greener, cleaner, and less polluting, it’s clear the area won’t get left behind. 26% of Britain’s electric cars have also been manufactured in the North East – a percentage that schemes such as the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, which aims to grow ‘a more productive, inclusive and sustainable region economy’, is clearly keen to see increase. 

What’s next for manufacturing in the North East?

Advanced manufacturing has been identified as one of the key potential growth areas in the North East. Defined as an area of ‘strategic importance’, plans are in place to adopt the latest generation of digital technologies, while striving to manage the financial and trade risks that will come as a result of leaving the European Union. 

Protecting international trade in the face of Brexit is more important than ever for the North East. Local plans aim to combine a global focus with strong investment in local supply chains, regional businesses, and increasing employment for the people that live here.

As advanced manufacturing continues to take root in the North East, we should be hopeful that the sector will go from strength to strength. 

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