Greg Clark, The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy today unveiled the long-anticipated Industrial Strategy White Paper – and with it, an ambition to prepare Britain for the future through driving productivity and investing in emergent skills, industries and infrastructure. Alongside the five foundations of productivity widely trailed in advance of the Strategy’s publication – ideas and innovation, people, infrastructure, business environment and place – were presented a series of four Grand Challenges which the country must address to shape the future: artificial intelligence, clean growth, an ageing society, and future mobility.
The obstacles we face as a nation are clear: economic underperformance outside London and the south east; low productivity in terms of outputs per hour worked, with a ‘long tail’ of much lower productivity; and a relative lack of preparedness amongst our graduates for the industries of the future. The Strategy attempts to address these issues and the National Centre is encouraged both by this ambition and the opportunities afforded to universities and industry to address these challenges.
The White Paper adds heft and rationale to some of the fiscal interventions presented in last week’s Budget – such as the commitment to raise research and development spend to 2.4% as a proportion of GDP – and the commitment to work with industry to develop a roadmap towards this figure and potentially beyond; and the increase in tax credit for R&D expenditure. The National Centre’s Leadership Council, formed of both businesses and universities, stands ready to work with Government to make this happen.
However, further to this there is much of relevance to National Centre members and stakeholders, particularly in the sphere of innovation. The ambition to be the world’s most innovative economy by 2030 – and in particular, to translate research outputs into industrial applications – will be backed up with actions. New investment in the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, with an additional £725m to capture the value of innovation, is to be welcomed. But more broadly, the ambition to promote a step change in industry’s relationship with R&D could prove hugely significant, moving the UK onto the front foot in terms of developing the next generation of technologies. Following our prior response to the Green Paper, we are pleased that Government has sought to address the issues we set out.
A new competitive Strategic Priorities Fund, building on the ‘common fund’ set out in the Nurse Review, will support cutting edge R&D which might otherwise be missed; additional grant funding is being supplied for Innovate UK; a competitive ‘Strength in Places’ fund is being established, building on evidence emerging from the Science and Innovation Audits; and the Strategy rightly recognises the vital importance of Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF) in supporting university-business collaboration through increasing it to a total of £250m by 2020-21, as proposed in the Witty Review and supported by the National Centre.
Dr David Docherty, Chief Executive Officer of the National Centre for Universities and Business, said:
“The Grand Challenges set out in the Industrial Strategy present opportunities to business and academia to take on roles of real leadership. Collaborating to innovate and develop the technologies and processes of the industries of the future, each can play a vital role in delivering the growth we need to increase the resilience of our economy. The interventions announced in the Industrial Strategy invite universities and business to position themselves in the vanguard of productivity and the National Centre’s programmes will help them make this a reality.”
National Centre for Universities and Business
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