Britain's Best Kept Secret - It's Industrial Strategy

A short discussion of Britain's industrial strategy; the robust initiatives and the noticeable voids.

While trawling through UK’s government website – as one does on a Sunday evening – I stumbled across Britain’s Industrial Strategy. Apparently, it was published last November. I may have missed that news cycle and somehow not met a single person that mentioned it since then. Or perhaps it actually is Britain’s best kept secret!

The Industrial Strategy professes to be the much-needed ‘root canal’ procedure for Britain’s productivity challenges.

Having given the white paper a forensic examination, I was pleasantly surprised to find robust initiatives in several important areas:

  • Education
    • Establish a technical education system (i.e., technical vocational training) - T-Levels - to stand alongside existing academic higher-education tracks
    • Invest an additional £406m in maths, digital and technical education, helping to address the shortage of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills `
    • Create a new National Retraining Scheme that supports people to re-skill, beginning with a £64m investment for digital and construction training
  • Infrastructure
    • Increase the National Productivity Investment Fund to £31bn, supporting investments in transport, housing and digital infrastructure
    • Support electric vehicles through £400m charging infrastructure investment and an extra £100m to extend the plug-in car grant
  • Sector Development
    • A series of ‘sector deals’ partnerships between government and industry aiming to increase sector productivity and innovation. The first Sector Deals would be in life sciences, construction, artificial intelligence and the automotive sector.

Of course there are noticeable voids. For example, the report states that addressing the aging population is one of the country’s four ‘Grand Challenges’, but it is eerily silent on proposed solutions. There are some overtures to regional development. But beyond transport infrastructure and ‘regional development funds’, the ideas are thin. Most importantly, the strategy is vague about the hoped-for outcomes. Will we be a nation where giant overseas corporations make R&D or manufacturing investments; will we form clusters of 21st century ‘Mittelstands’; or will we be home to global champions and their extended supplier ecosystems? What does success look like?

Overall, even though Britain’s Industrial Strategy smells of an expensive consultant report that sprinkles fairy dust in too many areas, I am very glad we actually have one. Of course, it would help if the population at large knew about it and some of the initiatives leapt off the page into reality.