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19 years of Southern Manufacturing and Electronics

02 February 2017

Twenty years is a long time in business, particularly businesses as fast-moving as electronics and manufacturing. Over that timeframe we’ve witnessed rapid changes in technology, the rise of the connected world, changes in governments and global financial crises.

Phil Valentine is Managing Director for European Trade & Exhibition Services

Throughout that time, the Southern Manufacturing and Electronics Show has remained a constant fixture in the calendar. So why has the show continued to grow and remain relevant over the 19 years of its existence? 

One reason is that the base concept is simple – the creation of an accessible event that had real relevance for firms across the south. Location plays a large part. The exhibition’s location is in Farnborough, at the centre of one of the most important areas for engineering and innovation in the UK. 22 percent of the UK’s £20bn Aerospace industry is located in the south. The headquarters of BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin are a short walk from the show. 37 percent of the UK’s medical technology workforce is employed in the south, with 32 percent of the UK’s £3.16bn marine industry located within a 50 mile radius.

That’s not even mentioning the M4’s high-tech corridor and the large concentration of the UK’s electronic companies that are based in the southern counties. All of those industries are supported by a network of suppliers, typically SMEs offering specialist components and engineering services, and it’s these kinds of businesses that remain the focus of the show. This simple formula works for exhibitors and for visitors.

The growth of the event has seen exhibitors and visitors from Europe playing an increasing part in the show. I believe that over 90 percent of all businesses across the EU are classed as SMEs. So the show caters for the needs of the same kinds of exhibitors that it’s always done, it’s just that now our catchment area has spread a lot further. Visitors tell us that the diversity of the companies is one of the event’s best features.

The prospect of Brexit may affect the diversity of the show and the industry generally. Since the referendum there has been a great deal of uncertainty over the precise implications for manufacturing. However, we have witnessed an unsurpassed surge from across the industrial supply spectrum in stand bookings since the vote. 

Several economic factors seem to be favourably aligned, especially for the manufacturing sector. The low pound is adding a competitive edge to exports and the on-shoring movement, world economy forecasts for the year look encouraging and the UK’s reputation for innovation and quality remain as high as ever. 

Whatever happens post-Brexit, the UK’s manufacturing and engineering expertise will remain in demand globally and a core contributor to the economy. I firmly believe the UK will still be an attractive market for European companies. 

2017 will without doubt be an exciting year for the event with the promise of much more around the corner. Construction is underway by Farnborough International of its exhibition and conference centre. Taking place in early 2018, we will be the first organiser to schedule an event there.  

Phil Valentine is Managing Director for European Trade & Exhibition Services

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