The Chancellor's 'industrial strategy': is California Dreaming enough?

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George Osborne has an article in the FT this morning, co-written with Google's Eric Schmidt, where he lays out what he says is his “explicit industrial strategy: to turn Britain into Europe's technology centre”.

The article recognises the importance of technology for the UK economy, stating that “the role that technology plays in driving job creation and economic growth becomes more important each day”. I couldn't agree more.

But, the article takes a relatively narrow view of what industrial strategy to support technology should be. The article focuses on four things:

  • improving the internet infrastructure
  • overhauling how computing is taught in schools
  • ensuring access to finance for early stage technologies
  • support start-up businesses

If we want to see a growing economy these measures are entirely necessary: but is it consistent with what the rest of the government is saying?

How does Osborne's strategy fit with what the rest of the government is saying?

Industrial strategy is, it seems, back in vogue. But, as yet, the definition remains unclear. What can businesses take away from what the government is saying about its growth priorities, when different departments are saying different things?

While Osborne is talking about the UK becoming Europe's leading technology centre…

Cable has talked about the importance of intelligent government procurement; supporting innovation and technology; and focusing on strategically important sectors.

Hestletine has talked about every industry being sponsored by a government department to ensure the public sector works more effectively with the private sector to encourage enterprise, stimulate investment and reward success.

It is not so much a question of whether any of these measures individually might be good for the economy, but how they fit together to achieve the kind of sustainable economic growth want to see.

Without a coherent strategy for growth, which all departments of government have bought in to – be it an ‘industrial strategy' or not – prioritising the right policy measures remain a difficult thing to do. And businesses will be no closer to understanding what the aims of government actually are.


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