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Our industrial strategy will help the UK lead the Fourth Industrial Revolution

4 min read

Our new plan will ensure Britain is at the forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, writes Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy minister Richard Harrington

On a momentous day for this country, and I’m not talking about the latest royal wedding announcement, this government published our ambitious, modern Industrial Strategy to boost productivity across the UK by building on our strengths and address the challenges we face together.

Today, we stand at one of the most exciting times in our history. Across the world new technologies are radically changing the way we all live our lives, and will change the way we earn our way as a nation. 

Our economy has changed significantly since the days of the first industrial revolution, when innovations like the spinning jenny, revolutionised the way cotton was spun. Now, we are talking about the fourth Industrial Revolution – the digitalisation of society.

Britain is extremely well placed to take advantage of these global changes - we are an open, enterprising economy with great strengths. We have world leading universities and research institutions, and thriving, creative, financial services and innovative advanced manufacturing sectors.

Through our Industrial Strategy, we will build on our many world class strengths, but we know we need to do more to build on all the diverse strengths and opportunities of the people, firms and places across the UK. Changing this will require a sustained and collective commitment from Government, businesses and society working together.

In January, Theresa May launched the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper and set out her vision to build an economy that works for everyone. A vision designed to create the conditions that boost the earning power of people, companies and places throughout the country.

And it was people from all over the UK who took the time to take part in that consultation who have helped us develop our white paper – almost 2,000 of them directly responded to the green paper and hundreds more participated in round tables and events in every region of the UK.

While unemployment is at historic lows, meaning millions of people are benefiting from being in work, our Industrial Strategy White Paper sets the challenge of upgrading people’s skills, to give everyone the tools they need to meet their full potential – no matter where they live.

Our place-based Industrial Strategy has productivity at its heart, with a strong focus on enabling businesses to compete on the world stage, investing in skills, boosting innovation and improving infrastructure. 

I visited Thales when we launched our White Paper: a market-leader in the aerospace, defence, security, transport and space sectors. What I saw was a global company, offering highly skilled jobs, not only to highly skilled people in Crawley, but offering young people a helping hand via The Prince’s Trust.

Our Industrial Strategy is not about picking winners but about backing the people and the jobs of tomorrow, so that our economy can thrive. The Grand Challenges we identify in our Industrial Strategy acknowledge we are on the cusp of change in how we move people, goods and services around the country; the need to harness innovation to support our ageing population, and put the UK at the forefront in the growth of robotics and artificial intelligence.

Just as we led the first Industrial Revolution, we are determined to be at the forefront of leading the Fourth. Our Industrial Strategy will help us to do this, in a clean and efficient way. With strengths in world class technology, research and development, and creativity, the UK is well positioned to respond to global changes, and ensure that people, businesses and places around the UK feel the benefits –  creating an economy that is fit for the future.


Richard Harrington is a minister in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and MP for Watford

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