On January 23, British Prime Minister Theresa May formally unveiled what is officially described as “proposals for a modern Industrial Strategy”. That same day her administration published a 132-page Green Paper entitled “Building Our Industrial Strategy”. (Green Papers are effectively the same type of document in the UK and South Africa – in the words of British Parliament’s definition, “Green Papers are consultation documents produced by the Government”.)
“Last [northern] summer, the British people voted for change. They voted to leave the European Union [EU] and embrace the world – and did so believing that it would lead to a brighter future for their children and grandchildren. It is the job of the government to deliver that,” wrote May for the British news website iNews.
“So our plan for Britain is not just a plan to leave the EU, but a plan to deliver the future we want for our country. It is a plan to build a stronger economy and a fairer society, underpinned by economic and social reform to make Britain a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few. … The modern industrial strategy that I am launching is a critical part of this plan because it will help secure my vision of a high-skilled, high-paid Britain where wealth and opportunity are spread across every community, not just the most prosperous. It will help our young people to develop the skills they need to do those high-paid, high-skilled jobs. It will tackle our underlying weaknesses, like low productivity, which are vital if we want higher wages. And it will create the conditions where successful businesses can emerge and grow.”
There are ten “pillars” in the proposed Industrial Strategy. These are (in the order given in the Green Paper): investing in science, research and innovation; developing skills; upgrading infrastructure; supporting businesses to start and grow; improving public procurement (leaving the EU will allow the British government to prioritise British companies for State contracts); encouraging trade and inward investment; delivering affordable energy (“we will keep energy costs down”, in the government’s words) and clean growth; cultivating world-leading sectors; driving growth across the whole country; and creating the right local institutions to bring together sectors and places.
May, in her iNews column, grouped these into three overarching themes. The first was “Sector deals” with industries: “we are … issuing an open-door challenge
for industry to come to government with proposed ‘sector deals’ that can tackle regulatory barriers, increase our exports, support innovation and skills and even create new institutions to provide leadership for growing sectors of our economy.” This is based on successful experience of government/industry cooperation in establishing one of the world’s best business environments for advanced design, engineering and manufacturing. “But I want to see this kind of innovative collaboration with any sector that can self-organise.” Increased government research and development funding also falls within this theme.
The second theme is “Breaking down the ‘barriers of privilege’”. The aim, she said, was to to turn the UK into “a meritocracy where success is defined by work and talent, not birth or circumstance.” Major educational reforms have already been implemented under the previous administrations of David Cameron (Prime Minister from 2010 to 2016). Now, the government will examine how it can increase the provision of specialist mathematics education, countrywide. Furthermore, it will seek to end the undervaluing and inadequate support for technical education. “So today I am announcing our plans for an overhaul of technical education and £170-m[illion] of new investments to create institutes of technology across all regions. These will support new qualifications designed to respond to the needs of industry and to help equip school leavers with the skills that local employers will demand.”
The third theme is “‘New, active role’ in backing businesses. … we will make Britain one of the most competitive places in the world to found or grow a business.” The government will back business, by building on Britain’s “low-regulation and low-tax advantages with steps to help translate innovations into businesses and jobs. …We will focus on the big decisions that will deliver long-term, sustainable success …”.
London wants sector deals with industry to address regulatory barriers, increase exports, support innovation and skills and even create new institutions
The UK is investing £170-million to create institutes of technology across the country