Bristol on track to become manufacturing ‘super-city’

June 2, 2011

Bristol is on track to lead the rebalancing of British manufacturing over the next 20 years as an advanced manufacturing super-city, says HSBC in its third annual authoritative assessment of the British economy. Its Future of Business Report, published today, identifies Bristol – and its dynamic high-tech industrial base – as one of the UK's seven super-cities. The others are Brighton, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Newcastle.

These cities are key for British business development and specialise in different innovations and industries and are already being shaped by today’s new entrepreneurs, according to the report.

The bank says 41% of business leaders it surveyed expect Bristol's role in the national economy to increase compared to just 15% who expect it to decrease. 
While manufacturing has declined from 29% of UK output in 1979 to 13% in 2000 the next decade will be a tipping point as a dynamic high-tech industrial base takes shape. HSBC says: "We expect to see Bristol leading this rebalancing in British manufacturing, a process that the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) calculates could create as many as 2.4m additional jobs nationally. 
"Bristol’s tradition of high-tech production, primarily associated with the aerospace and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) industries, makes it ideally placed to benefit. The repatriation of manufacturing from low-cost overseas centres is not just driven by rising transport and energy costs nor the desire to manage political and economic shocks. New technological advances will enable just-in-time logistics to be superseded by just-in-time manufacturing, capable of providing personalised products to local customers."
HSBC says the opening later this year of the National Composites Centre outside Bristol will provide prototyping and validation facilities to turn the city’s world-leading research into materials science into commercial success. It adds that researchers at the University of Bristol have been developing morphing structures that can quickly and dramatically change shape – they predict basic shape-shifting vehicles by 2020. 
Meanwhile 3D additive manufacturing is also being pioneered in Bristol and promises to revolutionise production processes. Rather than being hewn from raw materials, components and products are ‘printed’ from a wide range of materials including metals and plastic. Items from mobile phones and medical implants to football boots and watches have already been produced. Bristol-based EADS hopes to reduce waste by up to 90% in the production of titanium aircraft parts by using additive manufacturing.
As a result of Britain’s relatively high labour costs, automation will be a key component in the UK’s manufacturing renaissance. Bristol is also a major centre in the development of advanced robotics.
Indeed, HSBC points out that Bristol Robotics Laboratory will host the world’s most advanced autonomous robots in 2012 for the FIRA RoboWorld Cup. The Lab is now conducting work on robots that are able to convert food into energy.
The report also highlights open-source projects like RepRap founded by Dr Adrian Bowyer at the University of Bath which allow enthusiasts to build their own 3D printing device for around £300. The banks says Bath is one of a number of UK academic institutions that is working with corporate partners to develop commercial uses for the technology.
The bank concludes its report by saying that in turbulent times the need for adaptability and flexibility is paramount. Technology is rapidly decreasing the cost of competition and inspiring a new fleet-footed generation of micro-entrepreneurs.
Business leaders will increasingly need to manage footloose talent rather than static teams and must develop lean, low-carbon and highly responsive business models. Some of the more brittle global supply chains will be replaced by a revival in flexible British manufacturing.
More than ever, the ingenuity, creativity and adaptability of British businesspeople will be the country’s most important asset. By nurturing, supporting and developing these qualities the UK will remain well placed to compete over the coming decade.
Bristol and Glasgow were promoted to super-city status in this year's report. Commenting on this, Jacques Emmanuel Blanchet, head of HSBC Commercial Banking UK, said: "Out of recessions come new trends and this report crystallises how adaptable entrepreneurs and small businesses are shaping a new business landscape that British business is set to follow. The emergence of two new super cities and business specialisms developing across every region of the UK, demonstrate the breadth of business ambition and advances being made."

Comments are closed.


Reach tens of thousands of senior business people across Bristol for just £120 a month. Email for more information.