CBI full response to the Government’s modern Industrial Strategy

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General

The CBI has responded to the Government’s new modern Industrial Strategy.

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said: “Nine in ten firms see a modern Industrial Strategy as vital to improving living standards in the face of Brexit uncertainty and a sombre economic outlook.  This announcement shows the Government has its eye firmly on the horizon, not just the next few yards.  We welcome the recognition that success will require urgent action in partnership with business. This is the route to raising living standards in every corner of the country.

“The hard work starts now. Today’s announcement must be the beginning of a strategic race, not a tactical sprint. And it needs to last. This is a time for consistency and determination, not perpetual change with the political winds. The creation of an independent council with teeth to monitor progress will help this.

“The CBI urges the Government to continue on this road, moving fast from strategy to action. Two important tests of success will be that all regions and nations have successful industrial strategies, and that it is supported and not harmed by Brexit. There must be no missed turns on the path to UK 2030”.

On the Grand Challenges, Josh Hardie, CBI Deputy Director-General, said: “Business will welcome this new opportunity to work with the Government on the four Grand Challenges.  Focus, determination and creativity will be key to ensure the UK seizes the opportunity to lead on these global trends and people benefit from the opportunities that come with them.”

On the Industrial Strategy’s first Sector Deals, Josh said: “Today’s Sector Deals are welcome and must be seen as the start of a new approach, not the final word. Some sectors will be disappointed not to have been picked in the first round of deals.

It’s important that all sectors come up with their own solutions to address the long-tail of low productivity and ensure that they bring in their own supply chains.  Further guidance and timeframes will help ensure that all sectors are heard and no turns are missed on the path to UK 2030.”

On the five priority areas, Josh said: “It’s welcome to see the Government’s focus on lifting drivers of productivity.  Placing people, skills, infrastructure, place and ideas at the heart of this strategy is right thing to do to raise living standards across the UK.”

On innovation: “We support Government’s ambition to become the world’s most innovative country by 2030 and its commitment to transformative technologies like artificial intelligence.  Improvements to the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and the R&D tax credit are important first steps to set us on our way towards reaching a target of investing 2.4% of GDP on R&D.

“Universities are a vital engine for R&D and additional Higher Education Innovation Funding, along with the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, will help ensure universities play their full role in making the UK a global leader in innovation.

“It’s not just about the cutting edge though. We also need to concentrate on our low productivity performing firms, getting them to invest in tried and tested technologies – the CBI are ready to campaign with the Government on this issue.”

On infrastructure: “High quality infrastructure drives a modern industrial strategy, helping to support national and regional productivity and raise living standards.

“The Government has committed to improving the UK’s infrastructure, through the expansion of the National Productivity Investment Fund and publication of the Clean Growth Strategy.  A more strategic approach to infrastructure investment will help all parts of the country benefit.

“But with only one in five firms satisfied with the pace of infrastructure delivery, it is critical that this commitment now swiftly translate into delivery.”

On people and skills: “The Government is right to prioritise technical and professional skills as part of the Industrial Strategy, including the new T-Level qualifications. But businesses looking for a joined-up approach to skills will be disappointed that today’s announcement doesn’t move us on from what we already know.

“Reforming the Apprenticeship Levy, and addressing challenges in schools are vital parts of a long term Industrial Strategy. Genuine progress here will create the best possible platform for business to increase investment in training in their supply chains and local areas – as well as challenging those firms who do not do enough.

“It is important that adult skills are on the agenda. The National Retraining Partnership is a great opportunity to join up the UK’s skills system and help people retrain for the jobs of tomorrow.”

On place: “Building local industrial strategies which take into account regional strengths will enable all parts of the UK to thrive.

“Addressing national and local barriers to growth will help create prosperous communities throughout the UK. Businesses will be looking to the Government for guidance now on how local industrial strategies will be supported, resourced and implemented quickly after agreement. No place should be left behind because of their place in the journey to devolution”.

On business environment: “The CBI welcomes the Government’s renewed focus on exports and looks forward to hearing further details on their upcoming review into export strategy. The next stage must be a plan to ensure that different regions and sectors across the UK can take advantage of international opportunities for growth.

“This strategy brings into sharp focus the role of UK’s world leading financial sector in enabling growth across the whole economy. They will be key partners in meeting the Government’s aim of driving over £20 billion of investment in growth and innovative businesses. The expanded regional role of the British Business Bank will support this.”

On the new independent Industrial Strategy Council, Josh said: “The CBI has long made the case for an independent body to get to grips with monitoring and measuring the success of this roll-out. This will allow for frank and honest assessments that would help avoid the trap of the Industrial Strategy becoming a political football.

“If the Industrial Strategy Council is to have real teeth then it needs to have clear measurements and metrics to judge the success or failure of the strategy.”