The project focusses on particular manufacturing sectors, including electrical, computing and optical equipment, pharmaceuticals, aerospace and motor vehicles. The dynamics explored within these key manufacturing industries are geographical, organisational and economic. The researchers
selected these industries as they are central to plans and aspirations for a highly skilled, high-tech manufacturing resurgence. The team seeks to answer a number of key questions within the scope of the project, including: how the geography of these key advanced manufacturing industries has
changed; where and why these industries have grown or declined; what the key determinants and causes of the performance and productivity of firms in these manufacturing industries are and whether they vary significantly by region. Sunley's group also questions whether path dependence in industrial
regions in Britain operated in an enabling or constraining fashion, how manufacturing industries are demonstrating the development of localised/regionalised 'ecosystems' and whether these more developed in some regions than others. Furthermore, they hope to discover what the implications are
for local and regional institutional and policy support of advanced manufacturing. The project is divided into three connected stages. Firstly, the researchers are using existing micro-data sources to examine the central issues. This will involve the main data source of nationally representative
plant-level panel data from the Office for National Statistics' (ONS) Annual Respondents Database (ARD). Secondly, the researchers will conduct a representative online survey of firms in the four industries and, thirdly, with a focus on manufacturers in the four industries in the Midlands/Northern
regions, the team will use firm interviews and focus groups to pursue emergent themes and findings in more depth. The researchers have already unearthed a number of important discoveries, including the need to avoid generalising about trends in the patterns of different advanced manufacturing
industries and in different traditional industrial regions. Sunley highlights some further findings: 'We have been surprised by some of early results on clustering and firm productivity growth. We have found that the co-location of firms within the same industry when measured by a distance
index and controlling for a wide range of other factors does not appear to be strongly related to firm productivity growth. While the results are provisional and vary across manufacturing industries, single industry agglomerations (Marshallian externalities) appear to be more beneficial for
larger firms than for smaller firms. This could possibly be a reflection of the lower absorptive capacity of many small firms to knowledge spillovers and flows.' The team is currently testing these results and extending the analysis to co-location of related industries within manufacturing.
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