Integration, innovation and investment will place the Industrial Strategy at the heart of our economy
“If we have a good industrial strategy, it can deliver for all”, said Rosa Wilkinson, Director of Communications, Catapult Centres, speaking at the Labour Party Conference event, Industrial Strategy: Can we build an ‘economy that works for everyone’?
In preceding decades significant transformations of our economy have, in some cases, had negative impacts on our communities and individuals. Can we do it better, and is the industrial strategy the way to achieve it?
This was the question posed by Professor Bob Duffy, Director, the Policy Institute, KCL question, as he opened the Labour Party Conference event, Industrial Strategy: Can we build an ‘economy that works for everyone’?
Joining Professor Bob Duffy on the panel were Rosa Wilkinson, Director of Communications, Catapult Centres, Chris White, Director of the Institute for Industrial Strategy, KCL and Lee Hopley, Chief Economist, EEF, The Manufacturers Organisation.
“If we have a good industrial strategy it can deliver for all”, said Rosa Wilkinson.
“Industrial strategy really can work to spur growth” she continued, as she outlined an example with the localised industrial strategy community of Orgreave near Sheffield.
Over the last forty years, the community of Orgreave has seen significant industrial transformation following the closure of the mining industry, she described. It was pioneering the development of the advanced manufacturing research centre, now part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, which has had a major impact on the area.
Rosa Wilkinson stated that in “what could have been a truly deprived community, it’s amazing. That is on a local scale but is capable of being scaled up.”
Lots of companies, she described, “have been drawn in to Sheffield to be a part of that story”.
The High Value Manufacturing Catapult itself is one of nine catapult organisations, which exist to make sure British business can connect with the research coming out of British universities. In doing so, they help to commercialise research and improve the “bottom line” of the nation.
Lee Hopley praised HVM Catapult, saying it does “great work” in capacity building amongst large companies in the supply change.
In order to scale up and provide a successful Industrial Strategy, of which catapults like the HVM play a crucial role, the Director of Communications for Catapult Centres emphasised that the key was integration.
This was a theme emphasised by Lee Hopley, who stated that past iterations of the industrial strategy have seen “reduced coherence and deliverability.”
Lee Hopley defined an industrial strategy as having “a plan that has clear economic goals and outcomes that galvanising action across all government departments in pursuit of those goals.”
She described how its current iteration was now “clashing with politics and a world economy that is weakening in a way we didn’t expect when consultation was happening in 2017”.
The global role of the industrial strategy was picked up by Chris White, former MP for Warwick and Leamington, who said that the industrial strategy will be the “overarching strategy that responds to Brexit” and would affect all our lives.
Lee Hopley said the next industrial strategy would need “more pragmatism”.
She described how the industrial strategy needed to be thought of in an evolutionary way, focused on three things; innovation, role of place and investment.
On investment, the Chief Economist at the EEF said there was a need to rebuild confidence amongst business that the industrial strategy “has the potential to really stick and make a difference”.
Rosa Wilkinson said that there was a need for mechanisms that help take away some of the risk of investing in innovation.
Alongside these, the role of place was agreed by the panel to be incredibly important. Rosa Wilkinson emphasised importance of business having great connections to local communities.
Lee Hopley said: “we are not a big country geographically we can’t have centre of expertise in every area, we have to work together”.
Alongside the three foci, Lee Hopley was keen to point out that “skills are a ‘no-brainer’”.
Rosa Wilkinson stressed that training the workforce in new technologies was becoming a real barrier.
Without skills, she said, it “makes life difficult to turn good ideas into practical realities”.
Chris White said that “we neglect our primary education at our peril, unless we pay greater attention in terms of STEM learning, we will be forever retraining and reskilling.”
The Director of Communications for Catapult Centres emphasised that there was a need to be “continually building the skills base and work force we will need to prosper."