Many of the initiatives set out in the government’s flagship 2017 industrial strategy will have no impact on the UK’s economy, its independent advisers have said.
And there is “little evidence, so far, of the industrial strategy having led to significantly improved policy co-ordination across government”, the Industrial Strategy Council said.
In a highly critical report today, the independent body of advisers set up to advise on the policy said a “refresh and reprioritisation” was needed to ensure the plan could achieve its goals.
The industrial strategy was launched with the publication of a white paper in November 2017, which set out policy priorities to grow the UK economy by boosting investment in specific industries. It aimed to boost innovation and regional growth by ensuring industrial investment was distributed around the UK.
So far around £45bn in funding has been assigned to industrial strategy initiatives, both from the government and from businesses aligned with its aims. It aims to address four so-called “grand challenges” for the UK: artificial intelligence and data, ageing society, clean growth and the future of mobility.
However, the council noted that most of this money has gone towards a small number of projects, including research and transport, and that many of the initiatives included in the strategy have no funding attached to them.
The council said that while having a strategy was a “positive step when tackling the challenges facing the UK economy”, it had yet to bring about much progress towards meeting the four grand challenges.
It called for a revised strategy that is “more tightly focused a core set of grand challenges, financed at scale, co-ordinated across government and committed to over the longer-term”.
“The council believes a much greater degree of focus, financing and policy coordination is needed to meet [the four grand] challenges,” it said.
This is especially urgent in the case of the clean growth goal – which aligns with the government’s target to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 – the advisers said.
The council called for the refreshed strategy to have three core attributes: longevity, scale and coordination.
To ensure the strategy is able to scale up initiatives to meet policy priorities outlined in the strategy, the government has been urged to consider reducing the number of policies it tries to tackle. The council identified 142 distinct policies contained included in the strategy in total, across five areas: ideas, infrastructure, places, business environment and people.
“The council believes it is worth reconsidering the span and scope of existing Industrial Strategy policies, to assess if they are operating at the scale necessary to be effective. The key to a successful strategy is prioritisation,” the report said.
It also called for greater policy coordination and to ensure the consistency and longevity of commitments contained in the strategy. At the moment, the council said, it is “simply too early to tell if those policies will have the required degree of longevity necessary for success in meeting the longer-term objectives of the Industrial Strategy”.
Andy Haldane, chair of the Industrial Strategy Council, said: "At present, these policies are not yet operating with the consistency and coordination, nor with the scale, necessary to meet these challenges. With a new government in place committed to meeting these challenges, there is a great opportunity to refresh and renew not only the Industrial Strategy but the entire economy”.