PM ‘steps up’ with ‘modern’ industrial strategy
In between avoiding questions about a failed Trident missile test and preparing to visit the new President of the United States of America, Prime Minister Theresa May and her Business Secretary Greg Clark have launched a “Modern” Industrial Strategy.
At the heart of the new Strategy are new ‘sector deals’ and investment in research and development to support the industries of the future where Britain has the “potential to lead the world” – from electric vehicles to biotech and quantum technologies.
The Green Paper sets out ten strategic pillars, with plans to build up local trade bodies, create new educational institutions, making it easier for business to access finance outside London or getting a stronger business voice into local government among them.
The Strategy is, Government says, part of the ‘Plan for Britain’ launched by the PM in her big Brexit speech last week.
Mrs May said the move was about the Government taking an active role to allow businesses to flourish and a pledge of “not just stepping back but stepping up.”
The modern Industrial Strategy will back Britain for the long term: creating the conditions where successful businesses can emerge and grow, and backing them to invest in the long-term future of our country.
It will be underpinned by a new approach to government, not just stepping back but stepping up to a new, active role that backs business and ensures more people in all corners of the country share in the benefits of its success.
In response to the green paper, Executive Director of BPS Birmingham, the voice of the Business, Professional and Financial Services sector in Greater Birmingham, Hilary Smyth-Allen, as said:
We welcome the Green Paper on a modern Industrial Strategy and look forward to working with our members on responding to the consultation.
The BPS sector is one of the leading sectors in the UK with a global reputation. It is also well established in Greater Birmingham as the growth sector.
However, the sector faces specific challenges local and regionally, such as in skills, productivity, affordable access to high speed broadband and promotion.
So, we welcome the proposals in ‘Building our Industrial Strategy’ to look at supporting cluster, sector and place based institutions, such as business associations, that are in a position to further support growth. Alongside our work championing the sector with the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership, we believe this could present a good opportunity for business, professional and financial sector firms across the area.
The Green Paper also sets out technologies where Britain has strengths in research and development which could be supported through the government’s new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, including: smart energy technologies; robotics and artificial intelligence and 5G mobile network technology. This fund is part of £4.7 billion of additional R&D funding announced by the Prime Minister in November.
Business Secretary Greg Clark said the money could also be invested in driving areas such as energy technologies; robotics and artificial intelligence and 5G mobile network technology. He said:
This is an important step in building a modern, dynamic industrial strategy that will improve living standards and drive economic growth across the whole country.
A modern British Industrial Strategy must – build on the UK’s strengths and extend excellence into the future; close the gap between the the UK’s most productive companies, industries, places and people and the rest; and ensure we are one of the most competitive places in the world to start and grow a business.
We are inviting businesses and workers to contribute to this vision to help us create a high-skilled economy where every place can meet its potential.
The ten strategic pillars are:
Investing in science, research and innovation
Supporting businesses to start and grow
Encouraging trade and inward investment policy
Delivering affordable energy and clean growth
Cultivating world-leading sectors
Driving growth across the whole country
Creating the right institutions to bring together sectors and places.
The government has welcomed work on early sector deals, including life sciences, transition to ultra low emission vehicles, on industrial digitalisation, improving UK competitiveness and skills in the nuclear industry and the creative industries.
John Clancy, leader of Birmingham city council said:
The Government has said it will look favourably on the type of sectors that we know will shape the economy of tomorrow, with life sciences, low carbon vehicles, industrial digitalisation and creative industries likely to be at the front of the queue for investment.
On the face of it, that’s good news for Birmingham and the West Midlands where our hospitals and universities are already blazing a trail in medical research, and where JLR has expressed a wish to look at building a new battery and assembly plant for electric cars.
However, there’s far more the Government should be doing if it wants to rebalance the economy and promote inclusive economic growth, with well-paid jobs for all citizens. Enhanced capital allowances should be considered to stimulate investment in manufacturing, the Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative should be resurrected, and funding gaps for small firms in the supply chain need to be plugged.
Underpinning any sensible industrial strategy must be a genuine Government commitment to devolution, allowing cities and city regions to drive forward with policy shaped by local decision making. This must include devolved financial clout and independence. I welcome the green paper’s recognition of the importance of the local authorities and combined authorities as key local institutions but again look for a stronger commitment to devolution to enable us to deliver.
Lord Porter, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said:
It is encouraging that the Government’s Industrial Strategy recognises the vital role local leaders must play in boosting economic growth and prosperity across the whole country. Councils know their local economies best and stand ready to work with government to develop this strategy and create an economy that works for all.
We can only truly build a world-class economy if every local economy across the country is firing on all cylinders. For that to happen, all councils need greater freedom and funding from central government to build more homes, secure the infrastructure essential to economic growth, improve our roads, equip people with the skills they need to succeed and increase access to fast and reliable digital connectivity for all.
The new Industrial Strategy was unveiled alongside a Cabinet Meeting held in Cheshire, a return to holding Cabinets in the regions which were a feature of the Brown government. A series of commitments to the Northern Powerhouse valued at £556 million is also being made, including bankrolling a new Goole Intermodal Terminal.
A Midlands Engine Strategy is due to be published in the next two weeks. The mayoral candidates, WMCA and the LEPs will, amongst others, be studying the modern Industrial Strategy to see how if affects or supports their economic plans.
Andy Street, the Conservative mayoral candidate, said:
Without doubt the most important message is Mrs May’s emphasis once again that our economy must work for everybody.
The Industrial Strategy underpins this.
But she also makes clear the commitment to supporting business and, in particular, key sectors.
The West Midlands is widely recognised as the UK’s automotive centre, but there are other sectors where we have the potential to lead. The correct public and private support will unlock this.
I have been vocal in my desire for Government to match the ambitions of employers like Jaguar Land Rover and their suppliers by making roads available to safe testing of driverless vehicles and investing in the supply chain.
But in the longer-term, I welcome the Challenge Fund which will finance research and development in areas like smart energy, robotics, artificial intelligence and 5g mobile technology.
And placing greater focus on technical education, making business the focus of much of our skills provision, will be vital to providing the skilled workforce our employers need, and help fulfil my commitment to eradicate youth unemployment.
Siôn Simon’s only apparent public comment so far on the Green Paper has been to tweet a link to the Birmingham Mail story which highlights the lack of funding announcements for the Midlands, although that is likely to happen when the Midlands Engine Strategy is launched.
It seems they never fail to let the West Midlands down. That’s why we need to take back control from London. https://t.co/O8Nv6XPOVM
— Siôn Simon (@sionsimon) January 23, 2017
Bob Sleigh, chair of the WMCA until a Mayor assumes office in May said:
The West Midlands is the manufacturing heartland of the UK and we would like to see this Industrial Strategy, alongside an expanded devolution deal, build on that solid foundation and help deliver further economic growth and increased prosperity.
We are also keen to explore how this strategy, with its emphasis on developing skills and Institutes of Technology, can support the WMCA’s own Productivity and Skills Commission in tackling our region’s skills shortage and make sure local people are equipped with skills that match the needs of local companies.
We intend to use the forthcoming consultation to help shape an Industrial Strategy that works alongside our own Strategic Economic Plan to create a successful West Midlands that can not only help power the Midlands Engine but play a major role in its own right in boosting and rebalancing a post-Brexit, UK economy.
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