Joel Muckett 27 Nov 2017 04:27pm

Sector deals headline government's Industry Strategy

The UK government has today unveiled plans setting out its long-term post-Brexit vision for building on economic strengths, embracing technological change and addressing productivity performance

The Industrial Strategy report outlined its intentions of forming partnerships with several industries – known as ‘sector deals’ – to increase sector productivity. This follows sharp cuts to productivity forecasts in last week’s Budget.

The white paper follows extensive consultation with industry, academia and business bodies undertaken as part of prime minister Theresa May’s proposal in January to boost productivity by investing in infrastructure and research.

The government also announced this morning that North American pharmaceuticals company MSD would invest in the British economy, a few weeks before the life sciences sector deal is due to be signed.

MSD – known as Merck in the United States – will support a “world-leading” research facility, creating 950 jobs in high-skilled and high-value research roles.

Investment from MSD builds on plans announced last week to increase the level of contribution to research and development (R&D), bringing the total R&D investment to 2.4% of GDP by 2027. This could mean an additional £80bn will be available in investment for advanced technology in the next decade.

Similar sector deals are outlined in the Industrial Strategy, with the government promising partnerships with private sector companies in the construction, artificial intelligence (AI) and automotive industries.

Aside from sector deals, the white paper also focuses on the “five foundations of productivity” – ideas, people, infrastructure, business environment and places.

The foundations are supported by policies designed to reassure businesses about Britain’s ability as a global competitor upon its exit from the European Union. These will see more than £20bn invested in innovative and high potential businesses, £1.7bn dedicated to improving intra-city transport and £406m put towards boosting science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills.

The white paper also sets the ambitious goal of the UK becoming the world’s most innovative nation by 2030, with £725m committed to the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF). This adds to the £1bn that had already been committed to the first wave of ISCF projects.

It proposes four “grand challenges” –transformational global trends transforming industries and societies –, which the UK must become a leader in.

These are, bringing the nation to the forefront of the AI and data revolution, taking advantage of a global shift to clean growth, meeting the needs of the ageing population and shaping the future of mobility.

Theresa May said the Industrial Strategy would make the economy stronger and fairer for “decades to come”, while cultivating conditions which enable successful businesses to emerge and grow.

“[It will] support these businesses in seizing the big opportunities of our time, such as artificial intelligence and big data, whilst making sure our young people have the skills to take on the high-paid, high-skilled jobs this creates,” she said.

She also stressed the need to build a “better future” for the nation and those who live within it ahead of leaving the European Union.