I have supported and promoted the need for a bold Industrial Strategy for over a decade (as can be seen from my many blogs on the subject on this site). It was a pleasure to have been a part of the Industrial Strategy Council until the BEIS Secretary of State Kwasi Kwarteng quietly scrapped it in March 2021. It is still a pleasure to lead our national MadeSmarter programme, which is a movement gathering pace and supporting UK Manufacturing to make a faster transition to the 4th Industrial Revolution.
To me, it now feels very much like the early 1980s. Old Industries in transition, this time accelerated because of Covid. Brexit is creating a strong headwind with not enough coordinated support and strategic thinking to help new industries emerge at pace.
Sadly, our transition from the second to the third Industrial Revolution created a disastrous outcome, and is the reason why levelling up is so desperately needed today. We de-industrialised far too much and more so than other Industrial nations. The service jobs that eventually came to replace the old Industrial ones, were not enough to create the earning power, productivity and prosperity northern regions needed and deserved.
And here we are again, at the cusp of the 4th Industrial Revolution. If we get it right, we can create enough of the new Industries; electric cars, hydrogen cars and hydrogen energy, low carbon flying, Industrial Digital Technologies like Industrial IOT, Machine Learning, Additive Manufacturing and much more.
We have every opportunity to get it right, we certainly have the innovation and creativity needed, but we lack the scale, ambition and policy coordination. This is definitely not the time to scrap Industrial Strategy. We need a bolder plan and better coordination of our national innovation effort. It is time to create a bolder Industrial Strategy to make sure this is not a rerun of the 1980s.
This is a call for UK Industry Leadership to not let the Industrial Strategy die at this critical moment. It might need to be in a different name like the ‘Build Back Better’ – Plan for Growth, which needs lots of work to get it there. Please join in and make sure we end up with the Industrial Strategy our levelling up and Northern Powerhouse regions need and deserve, whatever its name.
More thoughts are in this article in the Guardian, that I contributed towards.