Top 5 UK trade shows to meet contract electronics manufacturers

Providing you plan the day in advance, trade shows can be a useful way of getting in front of contract electronics manufacturers (CEMs). Attending an exhibition allows you to meet a number of CEMs at the same time, on neutral ground, so you can form initial comparisons in a relatively short space of time.

And, from the CEMs' perspective, they have the chance to talk through your current situation and outline plans face-to-face, while explaining how the skills and capabilities they have could help you.

Throughout the year, there are a number of events within the UK dedicated to electronics, engineering and subcontracting. To help you plan your time, this blog post lists the top 5 UK trade shows we feel are dedicated to subcontracting, engineering or electronics, along with when and where they take place. 

Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules in terms of which shows CEMs attend and how many times they exhibit during the year. Some steer clear of trade shows altogether; some will select a handful of events to attend; while others will book stands at as many exhibitions as they can handle.

What they have to offer you on the day also varies greatly. Some fill their stands with glamorous assistants and display cabinets packed full of customers' products; whereas others simply have a display banner with a clear message of what they offer and literature for you to take away and digest at a later stage. There really is little common ground.

Therefore, it’s important to see exhibitions as a way of "complimenting" the existing research you are conducting, rather than relying on them solely to answer all of your questions. So, let’s take a look at what events are out there and which ones you may find beneficial to attend.

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Southern Manufacturing and Electronics

This is arguably the UK's largest regional manufacturing technology, electronics and subcontracting exhibition. As a result, a large number of CEM providers typically attend this event, along with some of the UK’s top engineering firms and component distributors.

In 2017 over 8,500 visitors were reported to have attended across three days. To watch the official 2017 show review please click here.

Where is it held? FIVE, Farnborough

What time of year does it take place? February

Official show website:

Northern Manufacturing and Electronics

Run by the same team as Southern Manufacturing, Northern Manufacturing and Electronics is a smaller event but seems to be building up nicely in an attempt to become the largest exhibition dedicated to serving the needs of manufacturing and electronics industries in the North of England.

Where is it held? EVENT CITY, Manchester

What time of year does it take place? September

Official show website:


Billed as the UK’s only dedicated subcontracting, advanced manufacturing and technology event, suppliers attending cover a broad range of services including fabrication, metal forming, plastic moulding, electronics, contract electronics manufacturing, finishing, software, supply chain management and industry services.

Where is it held? The NEC, Birmingham

What time of year does it take place? June

Official show website:

Advanced Engineering UK

As the name suggests, this show provides an advanced engineering and supply chain showcase focusing on the high-performance sectors. The event itself is split into a number of specialist areas to help visitors reach the right suppliers and incorporates Aero Engineering, Composites Engineering Show, Automotive Engineering Show and Performance Metals Engineering.

Also, Advanced Engineering boasts a significant "free to attend" conference agenda with purpose-built auditoriums providing attendees with expert advice on the latest innovations, technology and applications across all of the show sectors. For a deeper understanding of the conferences and subjects covered during the event, please click here.

Where is it held? The NEC, Birmingham

What time of year does it take place? November

Official show website:

Engineering Design Show

The Engineering Design Show is the UK’s must-attend event for engineering, electronics and embedded design. Successful design is always evolving and improving and EDS is no different. The show offers you a fully immersive experience of innovation, inspiration, interaction and insight.

The 2018 exhibitor list is starting to build up nicely and unlike other shows this show often ends up having a waiting list!

Where is it held? The Ricoh Arena, Coventry

What time of year does it take place? October

Official show website:

In addition to the above, a number of more "specialist" trade shows take place throughout the UK, which focus on a specific market sector or industry. For your reference they include:

  • Med-Tech Innovation Expo

Market sector: medical

Where is it held? The Richo Arena, Coventry

What time of year does it take place? April

  • DSEI

Market sector: defence and security

Where is it held? ExCeL, London

What time of year does it take place? September

Official show website:

  • Railtex

Market sector: railways

Where is it held? The NEC, Birmingham

What time of year does it take place? May

Official show website:

  • Farnborough Air Show

Market sector: aerospace and defence

Where is it held? Farnborough

What time of year does it take place? July

Official show website:   

  • Traffex

Market sector: transportation and parking (co-located with the ParkEX show)

Where is it held? The NEC, Birmingham

What time of year does it take place? April

Official show website:

  • LUX Live

Market sector: lighting

Where is it held? ExCeL, London

What time of year does it take place? November

  • Highways UK

Market sector: Transportation

Where is it held? ExCeL, London

What time of year does it take place? November

Official show website:

The EMS market can be a confusing place at times and there are differing opinions on how best to segment it. Some UK CEMs are now concentrating on a much smaller number of market sectors in an attempt to differentiate themselves and will, therefore, attend these more "niche" exhibitions to support their current marketing strategy.

However, that’s not to say CEMs not in attendance that service a wide range of market sectors cannot support your project, or that those attending hold the particular quality accreditations and approvals you need! Once again it all comes back down to "fit" and making sure you are clear on what your perfect CEM provider looks like before attending any show.

Hopefully, this blog post has provided you with a comprehensive list of UK-based exhibitions and events dedicated to electronics, engineering and subcontracting.

If you only plan to visit one trade show in the UK during the year to meet potential CEM providers, then Southern Manufacturing and Electronics is widely regarded within the industry as "the" event to attend. If you have first-hand experience of any other UK shows that relate to electronic manufacturing in some way, I’d love to hear from you.

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An alternative view of the traditional EMS tier system


Written by Neil Sharp

Neil has over 25 years’ experience in Electronics Manufacturing Services and Component Distribution. During his career, Neil has held a range of leadership positions in sales, marketing, and customer service. Neil is currently part of the ESCATEC Senior Management Team and is responsible for setting and delivering the overall Group Marketing strategy. Neil heads up the marketing department and is responsible for both the strategy and the implementation of innovative marketing campaigns designed to deliver high quality content to those seeking outsourcing solutions.