Bye bye BIS, hello BEIS?

Posted on 18 Jul 2016 by Jonny Williamson

One of Theresa May’s first acts of leadership has been to merge the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and the Department of Energy & Climate Change to forge the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

With a refreshed line up of Ministers and an expanded remit, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy – BEIS – reportedly has five core objectives:

  1. Delivering a comprehensive industrial strategy
  2. Leading government’s relationship with the business community
  3. Expanding upon the UK’s scientific activities
  4. Providing affordable, clean energy
  5. Addressing climate change

The first is likely to be of most interest to UK manufacturers, with one of the most-oft heard complaints levelled against BIS – certainly under the tenure of previous Business Secretary, Sajid Javid – being the lack of a clear, long-term industrial strategy.

As Terry Scuoler, CEO of EEF, remarked upon the formation of BEIS: “Now that energy and business are merged, we have the makings of an industrial strategy that will focus on UK competiveness.”

This is particularly pertinent of late, Scuoler continued, as manufacturers “seek to overcome the challenges and seize opportunities” following last month’s referendum decision to leave the EU.

BEIS – who’s who?

  • Secretary of State – Greg Clark
  • Under Secretary of State – Margot James
  • Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy Minister – Nick Hurd
  • Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy Minister – Jesse Norman
  • Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy Minister – Baroness Neville-Rolfe
  • Universities & Science Minister (jointly with DfE) – Jo Johnson

According to the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) head of policy, Paul Davies: “Effective policies are the key to solving the challenges of the energy trilemma – decarbonisation, security of supply, and affordability – and to ensuring the manufacturing sector goes from strength to strength.

Davies noted that the nation’s skills shortage remains a persistent challenge, an issue that continues to “threaten all UK engineering, including the manufacturing and energy sectors.”

It’s absolutely crucial, he continued, that moving responsibility for the skills agenda – including all facets of training and apprenticeships – to the Department for Education (DfE) doesn’t create an even wider gulf between education and industry.

The fact that ‘Industrial Strategy’ is now in the Department’s title will hopefully see words become actions. However, like with almost every facet of business in a post-Brexit world, only time will tell.