The UK Governments’ new Industrial Strategy

Industrial StrategyBFPDA Report

A Roadmap for the Future of British Industry?

The UK Industrial Strategy has been a long time in the making. For several years, various stakeholders, including BFPA, have been in consultation with BEIS and other Government Departments in trying to establish a document that articulates the needs of UK Industry whilst meeting the political aspirations of the Government. One would hope that the two were in complete synchronisation but sadly, this is not always the case. Take the subject of robotics where the need for adoption of the technology is paramount if we are to secure the future of British Manufacturing but successive politicians have been too scared to be seen publicly supporting this cause for fear of being accused of destroying jobs. The solution to such conundrums often resides in the clever use of language which doesn’t explicitly describe the contentious technology but leaves the door open for its development! There is a small element of such manoeuvring in the final iteration of the current strategy document to the extent that Government is understandably seeking to develop industry in areas of high unemployment whereas industry would seek to prioritise the availability of skills and logistic considerations over the local demography. However, both stakeholders are sympathetic to the others drivers and there is a high degree of consensus as to the suitability of the chosen strategic objectives.

Born out of the green paper and associated consultation exercise early in 2017 which articulated ten primary strategic ‘pillars’ or focus areas for the strategy; the final iteration focuses its primary objectives around a consolidated version of what have been called “five foundations of productivity – the essential attributes of every successful economy.”

Those foundations are explicitly:

Industrial Strategy Graphic

Through this process, Government has also identified Grand Challenges which they claim they will set for the UK government and wider economy. They are designed to be a response to the global forces that Government claims will shape our rapidly changing future, and which the UK must embrace to ensure that we harness all the opportunities that they present.

The Grand Challenges, which are four in number, are:

Industrial Strategy Graphic

The headline policies that underpin each of the ‘foundations of productivity’ are essentially fifteen fold and will be made enduring by creating an independent Industrial Strategy Council that will assess progress and make recommendations to the government. Hopefully, this latter step will avoid the inevitable re-invention of policy in the event that there were to be a change in Government although the widely held view is that this may not be sufficient.

The headline policies by foundation of productivity are:

Industrial Strategy Graphic

Industrial Strategy Graphic

Industrial Strategy Graphic

The Governments Vision longer term, for the UK is expressed as wanting the UK to become:-

  • The world’s most innovative economy…
  • Offering good jobs and greater earning power for all…
  • Via a major upgrade to the UK’s infrastructure…
  • Making it the best place to start and grow a business…
  • Whilst creating prosperous communities across the UK.

In one of the closing paragraphs of the Executive summary in the white paper, Government makes a statement which captures their aspirations:-

“The Industrial Strategy sets out how we are building a Britain fit for the future – how we will help businesses create better, higher-paying jobs in every part of the United Kingdom with investment in the skills, industries and infrastructure of the future. It ensures that our country and its citizens can embrace and benefit from the opportunity of technological change.”

As with all Government statements of aspiration, there is an inevitable element of platitudinous optimism about the strategy. No one could take issue with the objectives, they are all very worthy but in their understandable attempt to address all sectors without alienating any of the voting populous, Government has tried to ‘keep all of the people happy all of the time’ which experience shows is rarely possible. BFPA members will have to search in a little more detail to find those policies and ultimately regulations that will have a major impact, positive or negative, upon their businesses. There is also the time element to consider for whilst industry takes a long-term view of any practical strategy, Governments have to work to the five-year lifetime between elections and take whatever steps are necessary to remain in power. If they don’t and there is a change of Government, it is highly likely that there will be changes in policy before strategic objectives have had an opportunity to impact upon the business community.

The entire white paper is actually 255 pages long thus, only those with sufficient resource or personal stamina are likely to try to digest it in its entirety. For those that do wish to have a copy, it may be found on;

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/662508/industrial-strategy-white-paper.pdf