More than half (52%) of UK manufacturers think that ‘a lack of UK economic certainty’ is the most pressing concern for business, according to a new snapshot poll1 by Santander Corporate & Commercial. The research, which coincides with Santander’s Manufacturing Industry Day on Thursday 13 June, found that one in five (21%) of the manufacturers surveyed were concerned about a lack of skilled workers.

The vast majority (75%) say they are planning to expand overseas in the next three years, and of those looking to expand, the European Union is their preferred market, cited by two thirds (66%). This was followed by North America (45%), with the Asia-Pacific region in third (36%).

The figures also revealed that 25% of manufacturing firms were ‘very confident’ on prospects for the sector. While a further 44% said they are ‘slightly confident’ on prospects, just 3% expected the manufacturing sector to ‘grow significantly’ over the next three years, with 44% expecting moderate growth.

Paul Brooks, Head of UK Manufacturing at Santander UK, commented: “It is clear that UK manufacturers are focused on growth and opportunities but have real concerns about the strength of the UK economy. Despite this, the strongly positive aspiration to invest in their businesses and, more particularly, export overseas or expand current international trading activity is very encouraging. Santander has a specific team focused on helping UK manufacturers to export globally, and we are committed to growing this activity as demand increases.”

To succeed in this market environment, a third (34%) of manufacturing firms said they had already increased investment at their business in 2019 – this compares to 10% who have cut investment. Some 38% said they are planning to increase investment looking forward across the year.

Santander’s Manufacturing Industry Day – based in the Midlands, the heartland of UK manufacturing – brings together sector leaders and industry experts from across the country to look at challenges and opportunities for the sector.

Keynote speakers on the day included Dr Hamid Mughal OBE, Director of Global Engineering at Rolls Royce, and Dick Elsy CBE, Chief Executive Officer at High Value Manufacturing Catapult as well as a panel of industry experts including Make UK and other key influencers from well-known manufacturing brands.

For more information on Santander’s Manufacturing sector support, please visit



What is causing you most concern about your business at the moment?Lack of UK economic certainty52%
Lack of skilled people21%
Access to finance8%
Supply chain issues7%
Ability to trade internationally4%
Are you planning to expand your business overseas in the next 3 years?No25%
Yes, to Europe50%
Yes, to North America35%
Yes, to non-EU Europe33%
Yes, to Asia27%
Yes, to Central America14%
Yes, to South America14%
Yes, to Africa12%
Yes, to Oceania12%
How confident are you about the UK manufacturing sector?Very confident25%
Slightly confident44%
Don’t know1%
Neither confident nor unconfident14%
Slightly unconfident14%
Very unconfident1%
When thinking about investment in your business in 2019, which of the following statements best applies to you?I have increased investment in the business already34%
I plan to increase investment during 201938%
I plan to keep investment at the same level as 201817%
I plan to reduce investment during 20191%
I have reduced investment in the business already10%
How much do you expect the UK manufacturing sector to grow over the next 3 years?Grow significantly3%
Grow moderately44%
Grow a little32%
Don’t know2%
Neither grow or contract8%
Contract a little8%
Contract moderately4%


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 Notes to Editors

  1. 101 senior executives at UK manufacturing firms interviewed from 1 to 10 June 2019, ahead Santander Manufacturing Industry Day on Thursday 13 June 2019.

Santander UK is a financial services provider in the UK that offers a wide range of personal and commercial financial products and services. It has brought real competition to the UK, through its innovative products for retail customers and relationship banking model for UK SMEs. At 31 December 2018, the bank has c23,800 employees. It serves around 15 million active customers, via a nationwide branch network, telephone, mobile and online banking; and 64 regional Corporate Business Centres. Santander UK is subject to the full supervision of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) in the UK. Santander UK plc customers’ eligible deposits are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) in the UK.

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