UK’s acoustic industry contributes £4.6bn to UK economy, say University of Sheffield academics

The UK’s acoustics industry contributes £4.6bn to the economy and could help solve the challenges set out by the Government’s industrial strategy, according to academics.

The University of Sheffield a leading UK centre for research
The University of Sheffield a leading UK centre for research

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, is believed to be the first to identify the size and importance of the UK’s acoustics industry.

Supported by 750 companies throughout the country, the acoustics industry makes a major contribution to the UK’s economy, according to the study.

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The report highlights how the industry employs more than 16,000 people, each of whom generates more than £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) 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 more than 200 active research grants worth more than £150m, involving nearly 50 universities across the UK.

Acoustics is the generation, manipulation, control, transmission and detection of sound and vibration.

A spokesman said: “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 in the Industrial Strategy.

Kirill Horoshenkov, the 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 and researchers.”