Today EEF has published a new Industrial Strategy Policy Digest – Making the Industrial Strategy work for Manufacturing – which rounds up our view on the value to manufacturers of having an industrial strategy.
While the government’s first draft of that strategy was a major step in the right direction there are some gaps industry would like to see filled in the final draft expected later this year. Filling these will make the strategy more robust and capable of supporting the economy regardless of Britain’s final Brexit deal.
This blog builds on our Policy Digest to give an overview of what these gaps are and why.
You can also listen to our 10 minute podcast which explores some of the main themes in more detail.
Britain’s manufacturers are ambitious about the future and about improving their productivity
Three-quarters are going for growth and 92% plan to increase their innovation efforts. Alongside this the public are ambitious for the sector with 70% wanting the UK to aim to be a top five manufacturing nation in the world by output.
An industrial strategy can support that ambition and help to make the UK a more competitive location for industry. The strategy is arguably more important to get correct now, as the structure of the UK economy is set to be transformed by Britain’s exit from the European Union (a transformation that has already begun).
Filling in the gaps we’ve identified will help to make the industrial strategy work for manufacturing – we’ve set out how this can be done below.
How government can fill the gaps:
1. Set out a clear vision of what a successful industrial strategy outcome for Britain looks like, including clear metrics to track progress
This isn’t the first attempt to tackle what ails Britain. How will we know things are working this time? The government needs to come back with a set of metrics they will watch to ensure the strategy is working. The Policy Digest set out what some of these could be:
2. Include a focus on the cost of doing business, which is missing in the strategy. The cost base underpins the competitiveness of the UK as a location for manufacturing
When we asked companies about what is good about manufacturing in the UK, compared to their assessment of what is good in our competitor countries, the cost of doing business stood out – with just 14.5% of manufacturers saying this was a positive factor they would associate with the UK. However the first draft of the strategy was silent on the cost base for industry.
3. Provide guidance on the Sector Deals process to clarify the rules and ensure SMEs can engage
Sector Deals are a new concept as part of the industrial strategy. Modelled on the Devolution Deal process, these could make a major difference.
Getting the Sector Deal framework right could provide support for the overall industrial strategy by allowing companies to feel the tangible and specific vertical benefits for their sector.
But there is a need for guidance, to answer the burning questions on the Sector Deals process, and we’ll be setting out more detail on what this should look like later this week.
4. Set out a plan to roll out Devolution Deals to all areas of England, the first draft limits ambition to just cities
Devolution Deals have landed in the right place for industry, with some of the common elements of these Deals targeted at what manufacturers feel is broken in their local business environments – namely transport and infrastructure investment.
Manufacturers are based everywhere – these Deals need to be as well but the industrial strategy doesn't share that ambition. We’ll be setting out a way forward later on this month.
5. Outline how cross-government policy consistency will be achieved, to avoid different departments undermining the objectives of the strategy and each other
The industrial strategy can’t just be a useful well written document. Implementation and consistency of policy actions across government will be a crucial test in how meaningful the ‘all of government approach’ truly is. We’d like to see more from government on how they intend to make this work, later on this year.
Getting these right would go some way in delivering an industrial strategy for all Brexit scenarios and back the ambition the public has for Britain and manufacturing.