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Our innovative and diverse manufacturing sector is central to helping us achieve an expanding, export-driven Scottish economy.

Robot arm

Scotland’s proud manufacturing sector delivers 52% of our exports and 54% of business expenditure in research and development. By developing innovative products and services, these businesses will have the capacity, potential and opportunity to grow.

To fully realise Scotland’s manufacturing potential, we must work towards achieving our ambitious goals in increasing our manufacturing base to encourage internationalisation and develop the talents of our workforce.

We’ve outlined our action points to help build Scotland’s manufacturing sector.

1) Leadership

Strong leadership, sound strategy and a credible business plan are essential to secure the investment we need to maximise national manufacturing opportunities.

In an environment where technology is evolving so rapidly, we need to nurture leaders with an agile and adaptable approach - who are willing to take advantage of the opportunities available to innovate, grow and trade internationally. 

Manufacturing leaders must invest in developing the new skills needed  by the workforce, encourage innovation and pick the right technologies that are required by customers, products and processes. They must have the vision to instigate transformational change and encourage employees, of all levels, to contribute to success. 

To support SME growth and develop future strategy, we’ll support manufacturers to progress their future strategy in line with Smart Manufacturing practice. 

Working in partnership with industry, we'll deliver a ‘smart manufacturing excellence’ programme – through workshops, web-based advice and targeted learning journeys to European clusters of manufacturing excellence. 

2) Skills

To get the most out of new manufacturing technologies and equipment, we must foster a skilled workforce. 

We will work to encourage more significant investment in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) - which will be deployed through schools and manufacturing-orientated degrees, apprenticeships and vocational courses. 

We're also committed to tackling the under-representation of females in STEM subject courses through a programme of equality projects across Scotland's colleges and universities. To improve the participation of under-represented groups within the Modern Apprenticeships programme, Skills Development Scotland have published an Equalities Action Plan as part of the Developing the Young Workforce approach.

To attract – and retain – the brightest young prospects, we must promote the highly-technical, well-paid reality of modern manufacturing opportunities. 

And with the highly respected academic infrastructure serving our manufacturing businesses, Scotland is ideally placed to build on this capability.


How your company can benefit from a circular economy: 

  • Increased productivity
  • Efficient production
  • Stimulating product and supply-chain innovation
  • Strong, loyal customer relationships
  • Greater resilience to supply constraints and price spikes
  • Job creation through a wider range of customer services

3) The Circular Economy

The Circular Economy provides a compelling framework for re-thinking how businesses operate in the 21st century. It aims to eradicate waste – not just from manufacturing processes, but systematically throughout the product life-cycle. It places significant focus on innovation - from product specification and re-manufacturing, supply chains and product stewardship, business models and customer relationships.

It highlights the the importance of manufacturing systems in maintaining a more circular, resilient economy.

By positioning Scotland at the global forefront of ‘circular economy’ practices, we’re seeking to maximise our opportunities in manufacturing.

To assist manufacturing companies in trialling and adopting new design innovations and circular business models, support will be provided through Zero Waste Scotland’s new European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) CE programme and our expertise.

4) Energy efficiency and decarbonisation

By investing in modern and more energy-efficient equipment, we’re set to make a significant contribution to reducing costs and improving competitiveness in the manufacturing industry.

New equipment will make a notable and immediate contribution to decarbonising Scotland’s industry – but we will need to encourage long-term solutions.

This will require strong leadership, technical expertise and access to appropriate finance.

A variety of public sector partners in Scotland will work together in a Decarbonisation of Industry Steering Group – promoting and co-ordinating action to support energy intensive industries make the transition to lower-carbon forms of production – specifically to help them deliver emissions reductions, and to meet legal obligations such as the UK Climate Change Levy.

5) Competitive infrastructure

Pipes at BAE Systems

Making the transition to more flexible, resource efficient and digitally enabled units of appropriate scale and location is now vital for the survival of the industry.

Good development planning of such facilities will ensure Scotland is seen as an internationally competitive location for advanced manufacturing.

This requires co-ordination and collaboration between public investments in infrastructure, utilities, communications and private investment in individual facilities.

6) Investment in SMART manufacturing

The retooling of manufacturing operations is central to this action plan – and it’s essential to drive the productivity and competitiveness of the industry.

This will require significant investment – much more so than in the other themes of this plan.

To accelerate development of investment related to the deployment of best-available technologies and processes, we’re planning to introduce an enhanced asset review service operated by the Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service (SMAS).

We’ll focus on capital-intensive businesses, and will conduct a deployed and detailed assessment of the investment required to drive technical capability to the best possible standard.

7) Supply chain capability

Supply chain management has become a key competitive differentiator.

We need to strengthen the supply chain capability of SMEs to adopt new materials and process that will improve the ability to compete in global value chains in order to take advantage of the significant opportunities in domestic and international supply chains.

By leveraging Scotland’s many international relationships – including the Vanguard Initiative, an EU policy to help regions unlock their growth potential – we aim to provide further scope for collaboration, building supply chain capability and access facilitated by international innovation hubs.

8) Technology and innovation

Scottish manufacturing firms compete internationally, accounting for a significant share of Scottish exports.

To help strengthen our national manufacturing capabilities, we will encourage organisations to adopt a more open, collaborative relationship with customers and suppliers to innovate – whilst aligning businesses challenges with world-leading insights from universities and innovation centres.

By deepening and broadening our national networks – extending into Europe through our Enterprise Europe Network and the Vanguard Initiative – we’ll be able to master smart digital manufacturing from European leaders.

To secure industry buy-in, we need to demonstrate the value gained from a long-term commitment to innovation and technology adoption – particularly within SMEs. Coordinating the national innovation resources and assets appropriate for the manufacturing base will be key to our success.

A shared objective is to create an environment within which businesses of all sizes, in all manufacturing sectors, can innovate and adopt new novel technologies.

A move welcomed by industry

Dave Tudor, chair of the Life and Chemical Sciences Manufacturing Strategy Steering Group, "welcomes" the  launch of 'A Manufacturing Future for Scotland' - our eight-point action plan.

"It has a excellent fit with the Life and Chemical Sciences manufacturing strategy - particularly around areas of leadership, supply chains & re-shoring, innovation & investment, and inclusive growth."

Read Scotland's manufacturing action plan (PDF, 3.07MB)