Prime Minister, Theresa May, is set to reveal a new interventionist, industrial strategy today, to help the UK economy post-Brexit.
The new strategy will be launched at her first regional cabinet meeting, to take place in the north-west of England.
Broadband, transport and energy are at the forefront of discussion in an attempt to “align central government infrastructure investment with local growth priorities”.
The 10-point plan will involve the following:
- Investing in science, research and innovation
- Developing skills
- Upgrading infrastructure
- Supporting business to start and grow
- Improving government procurement
- Encouraging trade and inward investment
- 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
A green paper will clarify and introduce ways the government is able to provide support to businesses by investigating regulatory barriers, agreeing trade deals and assisting in the formation of established institutions that promote innovation and skills development.
Mrs May also plans investment in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) skills, digital skills and numeracy, to include expanding specialist maths schools – with £170m to go towards building new technology institutes.
A Landmark opportunity
Smart energy, robotics, artificial intelligence and 5G mobile network technology are included in a range of areas to get potential support via a new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, as reported by Downing Street.
The fund is derived from £4.7bn of additional funding for research and development, introduced in November 2016.
Business Secretary Greg Clark explained to the BBC that the government was holding a “consultation on what should be our priorities for a long-term industrial strategy”.
He said the UK boasted some of the best universities globally, but the same was not available for learning practical skills.
“For many years, we have not been as good on technical education as our competitors,” he said.
Positively embracing the new strategy, the director-general of the CBI, Carolyn Fairbairn, said: “It must help fix the country’s productivity problems and remove the regional inequalities that have dogged our country for generations, having a positive impact on living standards, wages and the future opportunities of many people.”
Business will get an opportunity to consult on the industrial strategy proposals. The Institute of Directors explained that strategy should focus on skills and infrastructure.
“It is painful to watch established businesses fail, but the government should be very sceptical of its power to keep struggling companies going through cash payments,” said James Sproule, director of policy at the IoD.
“Instead, the focus should be on retraining anyone who becomes unemployed, so that communities can adapt to changes in the economy.”
However Clive Lewis, Labour’s shadow business secretary, questioned the amount of money the government was investing: “We await further detail, but what’s been announced so far will fall far short of getting us back to where we were in 2010, let alone equip our economy for the challenges of the 21st Century.”
If we have gleaned anything about “Mayism” it’s that she doesn’t believe that the benefits of business success will filter through the UK without a nudge from the government.
May’s business minister, Greg Clark, also doesn’t believe in complete freedom of the market. Today’s industrial strategy attempts to help without both hands on the steering wheel.
Mrs May will also be declaring an additional £556m investment in the Northern Powerhouse.
The investment will include funds for the Goole Intermodal Terminal, linking rail, sea and road, a conference centre in Blackpool, and an innovation quota for businesses in Manchester and Cheshire.
“It’s about forging and shaping the new future,” she said.
Photo credit: Policy Exchange