Physics contributes £2.3bn to the Welsh economy

19 March 2013

A new report from the Institute of Physics (IOP) which shows that physics-based businesses make a £2.3bn contribution to the Welsh economy every year is being launched at the Welsh Assembly today, Tuesday 19 March, alongside a warning from the IOP’s President.

Welsh economy report front cover

Generating 40,000 jobs, more than 3.7% of the Welsh workforce, 9.72% of all Gross Value Added (GVA) to the Welsh economy stems from businesses that would not exist were it not for recent advances and knowledge gained by physicists.  

Wales (9.72%) is second only to Scotland (9.8%) among UK nations in the proportion of value added by physics-based businesses to its economy. 

Professor Sir Peter Knight, President of IOP, said, “While these physics-based sectors have made a significant contribution to the economic environment in Wales, the story is not wholly positive. Between 2008 and 2010 there was a 10% fall in employment in physics based sectors in Wales, and a £300m fall in GVA.

“If Wales is to recover economically and prosper, physics-based innovation is vital. The jobs market is changing from traditional manufacturing towards high-technology, high-value industries.

“To succeed, Wales must have a ready supply of physics-trained workers and a stable and sustained research funding environment. This, combined with an environment that promotes innovation, will allow physics-based businesses and Wales to thrive.”

The report, produced in collaboration with Deloitte, assesses physics-based businesses’ contribution over the years 2005 to 2010 (the most recent years from which data is available).

Telynau Teifi, based in Llandysyul in south west Wales, is a harp manufacturer that works in close collaboration with physicists from Cardiff and Swansea universities to develop the perfect harp.

Always striving to improve the acoustic and mechanical output, the physicists are researching finite elemental analysis, structural analysis and composite materials to further improve the sound quality.

Professor Sir Peter Knight said, “This is just one example of a successful business that is thriving partly because of the physicists that they team up with to improve their products.”

What is a ‘physics-based’ business?
A challenge in the production of the report was identifying which business sectors can be classified as ‘physics-based’; technology gifted by physics underpins a wide range of businesses – from Tesco’s checkout to Curry’s flat screen televisions, lasers and LEDs wouldn’t exist without physics. 

Tesco’s and Curry’s, however, would not have been included in the analysis as IOP and Deloitte agreed that ‘physics-based’ businesses would only refer to those businesses that would be unable to exist without ability to respond and adapt to latest advances in research.

For further detail about the classification method and more detailed findings, please see the full report at http://bit.ly/TheImportanceOfPhysicsToTheWelshEconomy.