Can the UK really be ‘world innovation leader’ by 2030?

We’re promised ‘new programmes to capture the value of innovation’, money for AI, robotics, and re-training in digital… but will the Strategy really be enough to cope with a Brexit shock?

Posted 28 November 2017 by

More details have emerged of the long-awaited Industrial Strategy, while the first elements of the UK tech sector’s reaction to the proposals are also starting to be heard.

As we reported yesterday, the BEIS (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) has formally announced a set of plans that the government promises will “boost the economy, build on the country’s strengths and embrace the opportunities of technological change”.

These moves include a new ‘Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund’ set to invest £725m in new programmes to capture the value of innovation and the make the UK the world’s “most innovative nation” by 2030.

That sum comes on top a previously announced £1bn for the Fund, which included including investing £246m in next generation battery technology and £86m in robotics hubs across the UK.

Now, there is also an additional £406m for Maths, digital and technical education, helping to address the shortage of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills, says the Department, as well as a new National Retraining Scheme that supports people to re-skill, beginning with a £64m investment for digital and construction training.

There’s also £176m for 5G and £200m for local areas to encourage roll out of full-fibre networks, the government says.

“The Industrial Strategy is an unashamedly ambitious vision for the future of our country, laying out how we tackle our productivity challenge, earn our way in the future, and improve living standards across the country,” said Business Secretary Greg Clark.

Also as we noted, the Strategy centres on a number of ‘Sector Deals’ that include construction, artificial intelligence (AI), automotive and life sciences to help sectors grow and equip businesses for future opportunities, and four new ‘Grand Challenges’ that BEIS thinks will allow the country to take advantage of global trends to put the UK at the forefront of “the industries of the future”.

“Our modern Industrial Strategy will shape a stronger and fairer economy for decades to come,” claimed the Prime Minister, Theresa May.

“It will help create the conditions where successful businesses can emerge and grow, and support these businesses in seizing the big opportunities of our time, such as Artificial Intelligence and big data, whilst also making sure our young people have the skills to take on the high-paid, high-skilled jobs this creates.

“As we leave the European Union and forge a new path for ourselves, we need to focus on building a better future for our country and all the people who live in it. With the Budget last week, and our Industrial Strategy in the years ahead, we will build a Britain fit for the future.”

Commenting on the plans, Tom Williams, CEO of fintech firm Certua, noted that, “A long-term focus on developing skills and enabling businesses to create new solutions to complex problems, is vital. This step from the government is an important commitment at a macro level.”