The share of manufacturing in many cities has declined dramatically. A growing number of policymakers (including US president Obama) are deeply worried about this, and design policies to revitalise these industries. But is de-industrialisation a problem? And how does manufacturing fit in the new ‘knowledge economy’? This article discusses the new role of manufacturing industries in various types of cities. It is based on a comparative urban study in 10 cities in Europe, Asia and Latin America.