Yesterday (27 November), Greg Clark launched the government’s Industrial Strategy. We have rounded up the latest comments from manufacturers on the government's plans to boost the UK economy.
The Industrial Strategy defines a long-term vision for Britain’s economic future, and it tackles the country’s productivity performance especially when it comes to embracing the digital transformation.
The four challenges of the future
The white paper identifies four major challenges for the UK economy the government must meet in the near future: Artificial intelligence, Clean growth, Ageing society, Future of mobility.
Decision makers in any industry sector must agree that these four vital challenges are to shape the rapidly changing future – but the most important question is ‘how’ the government will meet them.
Tony Hague, chairman of the Manufacturing Assembly Network (MAN), said: “On the surface the Industrial Strategy looks like great news for industry and seems to focus on all of the areas that will help us improve our competitiveness, including emerging technologies, training and development and support for growth sectors.
“The UK is well placed right now to show ambition and the strategy has to successfully engage Government, academia and industry, especially the SMEs that remain the lifeblood of our manufacturing base.
“My only concern is the ‘how’. It’s very easy to put a nice document together that says all the right things. I want to understand some of the detail behind the practical application and how it will be rolled out.
“Most important of all, I want all the political parties to get behind the Industrial Strategy and not see it as an election bargaining chip.”
The Royal Academy of Engineering said to the four challenges: “A focus on the four grand challenges of artificial intelligence and big data, clean growth, the future of mobility and meeting the needs of an ageing society is welcome.
“Each of these areas has the potential to capitalise on the UK’s existing expertise and proven success on a global scale.
“At the same time, the principles of openness and flexibility, and the development of local industrial strategies are welcome foundations of a long-term approach that is based on sound evidence and can respond as necessary to the varied needs of industry and society across the UK.
“The introduction of an independent Industrial Strategy Council is a positive step, and we look forward to further information about how this will be implemented to ensure rapid progress against the white paper’s ambitions. “
People, STEM & more productivity
The strategy focuses on the five foundations of productivity: ideas, people, infrastructure, business environment and places.
For the government, the second pillar of productivity – people – plays an important role for the future UK economy, and the government plans to spend £406m on education, helping to address the shortage of STEM skills.
Nick Bridgens, systems manager at Advanced Seals and Gaskets Limited, welcomes the strategy: “I am glad to see an investment to reverse the downgrading of technical education and major push in STEM education and STEM skills retraining.
“Without those skills in the hands of our young people, we are never going to be able to seize global opportunities.”
The Royal Academy of Engineering commented on the strategy’s approach to tackle the UK’s skills shortage: “An increase in the volume and quality of STEM skills more broadly is absolutely essential to addressing the well-established skills shortage in engineering.
“The strategy rightly emphasises that jobs in science, research, engineering and technology are expected to rise at double the rate of other occupations between now and 2023 and the majority of jobs on the Home Office Shortage Occupation List are in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related roles.
“The investments announced go some way to addressing this need, including an extra £20m for further education colleges to prepare for T-Levels and investment in a national retraining partnership between the CBI, TUC and government.”