Changing perceptions of manufacturing

In this webinar we discuss the findings from an InterAct-funded project looking at international perceptions of manufacturing. We look at how perceptions of manufacturing have evolved in the UK in the last 20 years and how it compares with six other countries.

We delve into the factors that influence these perceptions, providing actionable insights for improving the public perception of this vital sector.




  • Welcome and introduction (00:00-02:40)
  • How to make manufacturing charming again? (02:41-33:38)
  • Q&A (33:39-54:09)
  • Wrap-up and event announcement (54:10-01:00:24)


Speakers and Hosts

  • Jennifer Castaneda-Navarrete, Senior Policy Analyst, IfM Engage
  • Guendalina Anzolin, Research Associate, Institute for Manfuacturing (IfM)
  • Chris Dungey, Chief Technology Officer, High Value Manufacturing Catapult
  • Tim Minshall, Dr John C Taylor Professor of Innovation & Head of the IfM


Extended Q&A

Below are responses to some of the questions we didn't get a chance to answer live: 


Would a route to improved visibility of manufacturing be through highlighting how everyday products are made? 

Tim - Great question - and I think, in a UK context  -  we are seeing some great examples of this via shows such as The Secret Genius of Modern Life and Inside the Factory
Do we need to account for a level of cynicism around how manufacturers and companies in general are perceived?  Tim - I think this is a real risk. I think this links to the need for us (as manufacturers) to be much better at supporting the appreciation of how things are manufactured - in terms of all the "making and moving" activities - such that we (as consumers) can better understand the scale and complexity of what goes on, so that we are aware of the true costs (economic, social, environmental) of our choices. 
Perhaps controverial, is there too much focus on manufacture? Design enables manufacture and manufacture enables design, but design comes first.  Tim - Good point. I think that we need to ensure a balanced view of manufacturing. For us (IfM) we view 'manufacturing' as  a broad set of activities that includes design, production, SCM, etc.
Do common perceptions majorly influence the policy positions of states when it comes to R&I and trade? How do market-driven economies leverage their complementary strengths when it comes to future-proofing globalised manufacturing? Guendalina - As we mentioned during the presentation, common perceptions influence policy positions and vice versa. In the so-called market driven economies, the mix between government protection both for early stages research and manufacturing scaling up and private initiatives have been at the core of how advanced economies organise their productive structures. Examples such as the Frunhofer institutes in Germany, the Manufacturing USA Institutes in the US, the Catapult network in the UK are all example of a combination of private and public funding coming together to master advance production capabilities. 
With renewables clearly coming to the fore (as illustrated in the report) would anyone on the panel care to respond to a perception that manufacturing and agriculture are seldom seen as / presented as both parts of a circular, sustainable economy? Tim - I think there is an argument that many aspects of agriculture strongly connect within the broad definition of manufacturing (e.g. in addition to the food processing industry blended with agriculture, there are other activities such as the link between forestry and paper manufacturing, etc).  We see really interesting developments around the push towards circularity at this interface, such as those by, for example, British Sugar
 In your 'Challenges & Priorities' slide, where would you place Additive Manufacturing? We see tremendous investment in AM, especially in the USA and China, yet for some reason the UK's small 'Additive Manufacturing UK' forum seems to struggle to attract big names, investment etc. Is the perception of AM as a real alternative to CNC Machining etc. missing? Jennifer - Although we did not show it in the presentation, in the report we have information about technology priorities and additive manufacturing emerged as a technology and skills priority
Thanks all, I was thinking more to do with recent policy being manufacturing focused, manufacturing not necessarily being appealing to the wider population  and emerging workforce so the need to promote the wider skills. I think the Innovate Uk materials and manufacturing vision 2050 is going in the right direction in this context. Guendalina - Agree. Such initiatives go in the direction to indicate that manufacturing encompass a wider range of activities than the ones generally associated with manufacturing (e.g., production floor, assembly line, monotonous taks, etc.). It is important to reinforce that manufacturing activities also embed design, research, scaling up, and that especially in advanced economies the complementarities between different value chain activities are critical and goevrnments would need to ensure that there are no gaps along the chain. 
What role do you think the arts could play in changing perceptions of manufacturing on a broader cultural level? Tim - I think the arts can - and do - play a significant role in this, both positively and negatively. The way manufacturing is portrayed in TV shows and movies, for example, is really interesting and will inevitiably support certain stereotypes.

For further information please contact:

Ella Whellams