The central research question of the Made in Europe thesis is: which location factors need to be considered by Europe’s manufacturing industry to survive the 21st century?

A literature review provided the theoretical background, covering the following research areas: international business, economic geography, manufacturing strategy, government industrial policy and decision-making theory.

The research applied a pragmatic mixed methods approach. Primary research was a Delphi study using an expert panel of industrial elites from the manufacturing sectors Automotive, Chemical, High Tech and Metals / Machinery. These sectors were selected based on statistical data research that looked at what ‘the European Manufacturing industry’ stands for in terms of employment and economic importance in the European Union. As supportive research, the industrial intervention policies of the European Commission plus three individual member states (Germany, the UK and the Netherlands) were analyzed.

For Europe’s manufacturing industry to remain competitive in the 21st century, the key findings of the research are:

  1. Manufacturing location factors: in the coming decade, the critical location factors for manufacturing industries are (1) a stable, tax friendly and favorable governmental ecosystem, (2) the access to end markets combined with (3) the availability of high skilled labor
  2. Manufacturing strategy: is no longer based on a focus on ‘cost minimization’ (transport, labor, raw materials) but on ‘value creation’ (access to an integrated supply chain, skilled labor and new markets)
  3. Manufacturing location decisions: have in the past often failed as a result of insufficient preparation, cultural insensitivity and a short-term focus. The research suggests that applying experience and intuition from a diverse stakeholder group combined with objective evaluation criteria and keeping a long-term business perspective with a high degree of flexibility, is expected to deliver the best results
  4. Government industrial policy: although ‘government’ is not a critical driver of the strategy-making process in manufacturing industries, government industrial policy can play a decisive role in manufacturing location decisions and development of industrial agglomerations

Based on the research findings, a new decision framework is presented, the Made in Europe manufacturing location decision circle, as a synthesis of the main findings, translated into a model for both academic purposes and practical business application, highlighting the importance of geo-political factors in international location decisions.

Gerardus Christiaan Ekhart