The UK’s acoustics industry contributes £4.6 billion to the economy and could help solve the grand challenges set out by the government’s industrial strategy, according to academics.
A new report, based on a study led by experts at the University of Sheffield and Imperial College London and produced by Dr John Lincoln of Harlin Ltd, is the first to identify the size and importance of the UK’s acoustics industry.
Powered by 750 companies throughout the country, the acoustics industry contributes £4.6 billion to the UK’s economy, according to the study.
The report highlights how the industry, seen by insiders as hidden in the shadows, employs more than 16,000 people, each of whom generates over £65,000 gross value added (GVA). This GVA rises to £73,000 for people working in larger companies.
The industry is mostly driven by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – over 98 per cent – with the largest concentration of companies based in the North West, Scotland and South East regions.
According to the report, the industry is also underpinned by a vibrant knowledge base with over 200 active research grants worth in total in excess of £150 million, involving nearly 50 universities across the UK.
Acoustics is the generation, manipulation, control, transmission and detection of sound and vibration. It plays an essential role in developing some of the most widely-used technologies in everyday life, particularly in markets such the automotive industry, consumer goods, healthcare, construction and defence.
The report, supported by the EPSRC UK Acoustics Network and the UK’s Institute of Acoustics, also highlights the important contribution acoustics can make to solving the UK’s ‘Grand Challenges’ in clean growth, healthy ageing, the future of mobility, and artificial intelligence and data, as set out by the government’s Industrial Strategy.
Kirill Horoshenkov, Director of the UK Acoustics Network and Professor of Acoustics in the University of Sheffield’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, said: “Acoustics is a part of everything. From our smartphones and televisions, to our cars, the music we listen to, the buildings we live and work in each day, even the ways in which we produce energy – it’s a vital part of our everyday lives.
“Even though the acoustics industry enables so many of our most important technologies and makes an essential contribution to the UK’s economy, the industry is hidden from view.
“We hope that this new report highlights the importance of acoustics and showcases how the industry can play an even bigger role in addressing the UK’s most pressing industrial challenges.”
Professor Barry Gibbs, President of the Institute of Acoustics, added: “We became involved in this seminal research because for the first time, we have a way to demonstrate that acoustics is heard above the noise to inform policy, support agencies, researchers, career decisions and wider industry about the scale of acoustics capability available in the UK.
“The four ‘Grand Challenges’ identified in the 2017 UK Industrial Strategy will all require acoustics innovation. Challenge leaders are encouraged to engage with the UK acoustics community through the Institute of Acoustics, which has 3000 members, and the EPSRC UK Acoustics Network, which has over 600 members, as a priority to ensure that acoustics innovation is built into solutions at the earliest opportunity.”
The report highlights 10 key end-user markets for UK acoustics companies, which include:
- Audio and hi-fidelity sound reproduction
- Building design and construction consultancy
- Construction materials
- Consumer goods
- Maritime and maritime surveying
- Non-destructive testing
The top 20 contributors to UK acoustics output were also revealed by the report. These include (in alphabetical order):
- Autoneum Great Britain
- BAE Systems
- Cirrus Logic, UK
- Electronic Audio Systems
- Ford, UK
- GKN Aerospace
- James Fisher and Sons
- Jaguar Land Rover
- Knauf Insulation, UK
- Nissan, UK
- Thales, UK
- Ultra Electronics