IET sets out industrial strategy priorities ahead of Autumn Statement

Posted on 22 Nov 2016 by Jonny Williamson

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has welcomed the government’s commitment to an industrial strategy for Britain and is calling for specific commitment in a number of areas in the upcoming Autumn Statement (Nov 23).

Vice president of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), Will Stewart commented: “Having an industrial strategy allows governments to make timely, well-signalled, course corrections in markets rather than situations building up to a point at which there is a dramatic shift or U-turn.

“It helps industry and society work together to deliver a resilient, productive, sustainable and competitive industrial sector.

“Of the many considerations in developing an industrial strategy, one of the most important is that there is a long-term approach – which should be both cross-government and cross-political party. Fundamental too is a far-reaching industrial strategy for how to develop future generations of highly skilled engineers who can help to advance innovation.”

Areas that need particular government attention and focus include:

  • A clear commitment to the free movement of skilled people, which the engineering and technology industry urgently needs, including some sort of fast-track procedure for skills in particularly low supply within the UK.
  • Spending on modern infrastructure, both the physical infrastructures that allow movement of people and goods and the communications infrastructure on which industry is now dependent, to maximise national benefit and wealth creation across the UK – in particular a focus on a universal digital communications infrastructure, both wireless and fibre world-leading broadband, to build on our strong global position at the forefront of the e-economy.
  • Incentives and policy instruments to encourage entrepreneurs and start-up companies, and promote projects like community energy initiatives, as evidence suggests that fresh thinking and innovation often comes from small organisations rather than the ‘big players’. These incentives and policy instruments could beneficial, but they could also be lighter-touch regulatory and market mechanisms that help SMEs (unlike mechanisms such as auctions that are barriers to small players who do not have corporate back-up and who need to know the value of their product in advance if they are to raise funds).
  • Clarity on commitment to decentralisation, including opportunities for local action in community energy, smart cities and the internet of things (IoT), which are new developments that hold considerable potential, but developers and entrepreneurs are held back where there is lack of clarity in the government’s intent.
  • Simplified regulatory processes for small players such as community energy groups and community broadband providers.
  • Review of academic research grants and strengthening of global university collaboration opportunities, ideally supported by government Tsar.
  • Academic research funding to be centralised into one funding body and portal – and the application process to be streamlined significantly.
  • Revised public procurement policies (particularly in light of the Brexit vote) and a clear position on regional development, as Britain is no longer able to bid for European Regional Development Funds.