The location and restructuring of the UK defence industry : the case of the South West
The objective of this thesis is to determine the factors influencing the location of the defence industry in the UK and assess the impact of recent changes at the regional level. Such changes include cuts in defence expenditure and a re-evaluation of the methods of military procurement. The thesis begins with a descriptive analysis of defence markets and an explanation of the way in which the post-war UK defence sector has been supported by a relatively large and stable defence equipment budget. A review of the relevant literature suggests that defence markets are characterised by a number of unique features. The defence literature suggests that only limited data exist which describe the Defence Industrial Base (D.I.B.). However, it appears clear that the majority of defence suppliers are concentrated in the South of the UK. Possible theoretical explanations for this spatial distribution are analysed together with economic explanations for defence industrial agglomerations. The thesis then describes the methodology used to generate new data concerning defence companies based in the South West of England. The methodology comprised a postal questionnaire and telephone interviews with defence company managers. The survey results give rise to a number of important conclusions. Firstly, the defence sector remains less competitive than civilian manufacturing even though the majority of defence firms have significant levels of non-defence turnover. Secondly, restructuring is having distinct effects on the defence industrial base including substantial employment loss. However, medium sized defence firms appear to have been more successful in their response to the restructuring of the sector. The evidence from case studies demonstrate that growth firms appear to rely upon flexible production structures or niches associated with size. Finally, a model of inter-defence firm linkages suggests that firms with higher levels of defence turnover were more likely to have local inputs, local customers and local competitors than firms with lower levels of defence sales. Overall, the thesis confirms the view that the defence industry is a special case and is characterised by a distinct spatial form.