The 2016 AMME report was produced by a panel of experts selected from industry, government and academia and chaired by Dr. Rob Hardeman, Vice Chair of the MATRIX panel.
The AMME sector is export and R&D intensive and includes sectors such as aerospace, polymers and materials handling as well as some highly specialist companies – all with a focus on advanced manufacturing, materials and engineering. There are over 2,000 such businesses in Northern Ireland, employing over 40,000 people, paying salaries 26% above the NI average and generating sales worth £7.2bn in 2014.
The sector creates a high demand for skilled workers, particularly those with STEM qualifications. Northern Ireland has a strong manufacturing heritage and there is still a higher concentration of manufacturing businesses here than in the UK as a whole. During the economic downturn, the manufacturing industry in Northern Ireland kept on track better than other UK regions. For example, since the 2012 recession the NI manufacturing sector has created 6,500 new jobs – nearly three times the UK growth rate.
The study drew on insights from AMME business leaders, academic partners, representative associations and government bodies, both locally and nationally. This, combined with the use of data from a wide range of sources, revealed a surprisingly high level of sustained R&D activity and export achievement.
The study revealed several diverse subsectors – aerospace, polymers, materials handling, agri engineering, automotive and construction products – as well as a significant number (around a third of the top 300 companies) which are highly specialized individual companies. But despite the diversity, when these companies were asked what mattered most to them, there were three consistent themes – skills, costs and sectoral development.