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Industrial strategy to power post-Brexit Britain

Theresa May has launched an industrial strategy green paper, which aims to create a prosperous post-Brexit Britain through developing Stem skills, investments in science and innovation, and infrastructure upgrades

Prime Minister Theresa May has launched the government’s Industrial Strategy, which aims to build a “stronger, fairer Britain”.

The strategy green paper, which is being led by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), recommends investments in science, research and innovation, as well as increasing the development of digital skills.

As part of its plans to overhaul technical education and boosting Stem skills, the government will provide £170m in capital funding to create “prestigious Institutes of Technology” which will be responsible for delivering higher-level technical education. 

The institutes are part of a new system, which will replace the current qualifications in technical education and be “designed specifically to respond to the needs of industry”.

The strategy, which is being launched at May’s first regional cabinet meeting, also includes plans to upgrade infrastructure, which is likely to be funded by a £23bn national productivity investment fund, announced by chancellor Philip Hammond in last year’s autumn statement.

The prime minister said the Industrial Strategy is “a critical part of our plan for post-Brexit Britain”.

“As we leave the EU, it will help us grasp the bigger prize: the chance to build that stronger, fairer Britain that stands tall in the world and is set up to succeed in the long-term. And it is a vital step towards building a country where prosperity is shared and there is genuine opportunity for all,” she said.

Focus on innovation

As already promised by May, the government will invest £4.7bn  into research and development (R&D) by 2021.

Some of the funding will come through the government’s new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, which will be overseen by UK Research and Innovation.

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As previously announced, the fund will cover R&D in areas such as smart energy technologies, robotics and artificial intelligence, and 5G mobile network technology.

"Historically, we have not been as successful at commercialisation and development as we have been at basic research. We have often been slower than competitors to take up and deploy existing technologies: for example, the UK makes less use of robotics and automation than most other countries in Western Europe," the green paper said. 

"Innovation is not just about breakthrough technologies or scientific and engineering processes. Effective adoption of technology throughout businesses and improvements in management and workforce skills are just as important, as are new ways of providing services, from financial services and retail to professional advice."

The covernemnt has also committed to invest in new R&D facilities and knowledge sharing, with £100m being bade available to "incentivise universities to collaborate on technology transfer and partnering with business".

The paper, which was published today (23 January) is part of a public consultation the government wants to hold as it develops the strategy further together with the public and industry.

TechUK deputy CEO Antony Walker said the recognition that the strategy is "a process rather than a rigid, one off announcement that lacks the flexibility for meaningful policymaking also underlines the government’s modern approach - a collaborative and iterative Industrial Strategy must lie at the heart of a truly Global Britain".

“In today’s economy, the tech sector is driving innovation and boosting productivity across all industries. In tomorrow’s economy, every sector will be a tech sector. That is why the government is spot on to place investment in tech at the heart of its modern Industrial Strategy. The “industries of the future” will be tech enabled and tech driven - digital transformation is the future," he said. 

BEIS secretary of state Greg Clark said this is a long-term strategy that builds on the UK’s “significant strengths and excellence to shape our future economy”.

“It is about making our country one of the most competitive places in the world to start and grow a business. We are inviting people throughout the UK to contribute to this work to create a high-skilled economy that works for everyone,” he said.

The strategy green paper also aims to improve procurement, making it easier for companies to do business with government. At the CBI annual conference in November 2016, the prime minister promised to make it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises as well as startups.

“The government can also step up to help drive innovative procurement, particularly for small businesses. We will review our small business research initiative to look how we can increase its impact and give innovators their first break,” she said.

The strategy also aims to drive growth across the whole country, not just in the capital, which includes proposals for £556m in funding for the Northern Powerhouse to create jobs and support businesses.

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