18 April 2017

New Industrial Strategy ‘must aim to make the UK economy the most competitive in the world by 2030’ 

Business groups have called on the government to set out a clear mission to make the UK economy the most competitive in the world by 2030.

The call by the CBI comes following the closure of the government’s Modern Industrial Strategy consultation.

The CBI believes that a Modern Industrial Strategy with a clear sense of purpose will improve living standards and raise productivity.

It has set out six areas for action by the government to deliver a Modern Industrial Strategy, including: building clear UK 2030 vision; fixing the foundations; putting innovation at the heart of the strategy; empowering regions and holding to account; keeping sector strategies light touch and simple; and making it last: clear performance indicators and independent monitoring.

Says Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director-general: “The UK is at the foothills of extraordinary change as we look to redefine our role in the world and adapt to rapid technological advances in the workplace.

“A new Industrial Strategy must aim to make the UK economy the most competitive in the world by 2030.

“We must build on our leading knowledge base, drive a renaissance in our traditional heartlands of manufacturing and create a new wave of entrepreneurship by making the UK the easiest place to start and grow a business. By doing this we can raise productivity and improve lives in every community up and down the country.”

She continues: “This vision should not be created solely by business, nor by government. It must be created and owned by business, government and society together. To make this happen, it must be underpinned by a partnership between business and government that is the best in the world, based on trust and shared interest.

“This will be a significant driver of competitive advantage for the UK, ensuring that planning and execution is coordinated at every stage and that every investment moves our country and prosperity forward in a way that is fair and sustainable.”

EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, has also made several calls. It says that the Industrial Strategy must systemically tackle the UK’s long-term, structural weaknesses with a bold, focused and specific set of policy measures.

It says that the 10 pillars identified in the Green Paper are the right areas for government on which to focus its policy, potentially enabling more investment and productive activity to take place in the UK.

In its submission, the manufacturers’ organisation has identified areas for bolder intervention where government can build on policies within the ten pillars, including: addressing the role of more flexible higher education provision and its relationship to industrial strategy; extending devolution deals more widely so that decisions on transport and infrastructure link up with national and local investment priorities; and examining how the tax system can play a much stronger role in accelerating investment in new technology.

Says Terry Scuoler, EEF chief executive: “Successive governments have identified the UK’s weak productivity performance and resolved to tackle it, arguably with little success. This time it can be different, however, and we have a real opportunity to make a step change in the UK’s economic performance.

“The Green Paper is a positive first step in what will be an evolutionary process. A successful strategy must however be more than a list of policy action points. It has to be a framework for ensuring that all policy decisions take the UK economy closer to its goal of higher productivity, increased exports and greater investment in innovation.”

He continues: “Manufacturers in search of both a competitive and predictable business environment will need to be confident that future government policy decisions will influence their decision to invest and grow employment in the UK, are anchored in the ambitions of industrial strategy and that Whitehall departments are not allowed to ignore them.

“In the longer-term, the ten pillars which have been correctly identified must become the foundation around which future economic policies are created and implemented. Critically this must also include those decisions that determine the UK’s future relationship with the European Union.”

Adam Offord

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