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Business leaders give cautious welcome to industrial strategy white paper

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Business leaders locally and across the UK have given a cautious welcome to the government's industrial strategy white paper, which was published today.

The strategy is built around meeting what the government describes as four 'grand challenges': artificial intelligence and the data economy, clean growth, the future of mobility, and an ageing society.

The white paper identifies 'five foundations' for improving the UK's productivity deficiencies: Ideas, People, Infrastructure, Business environment, and Place.

The government has also outlined a goal to raise research and development investment throughout the economy to 2.4 percent of GDP by 2027 – up from the current 1.7 percent.

Progress in boosting innovation, upgrading infrastructure, and increasing the level of workplace skills will be monitored by an independent watchdog.

It sets out a vision for making the UK "the world's most innovative economy" creating "good jobs and greater earning power for all."

Ian LarrardIan LarrardCommenting on the white paper, Ian Larrard, director of the Swindon & Wiltshire Initiative at Business West said: “Following the Chancellor’s budget last week it should come as no surprise that government support for high-tech growth and the exploitation of digital technologies is at the heart of its industrial strategy white paper.

“Beyond these so-called ‘grand challenges’, government is right to identify the ‘five foundations of productivity’ as ideas, people, infrastructure, the business environment and place.

“Out of all of these, it is a renewed focus on place that resonates most strongly with the Initiative’s objective of making this region the best place to live, work and do business.

"Despite this, however, on the basis of the ‘key policies’ put forward by government to signal this renewed focus on place, one cannot help but be a little disappointed.

“While the pledge to develop Local Industrial Strategies sounds promising it is unclear how they will work in practice in if they will turn out to be complementary to the work of the council and LEP in this area.

“Finally, a £42m budget to help pilot the Teacher Development Premium in schools seems highly ambitious given the skills gaps the region faces.

“Early days, of course, but much more detail and much more input from the business community is desperately needed.”

Rob PerksRob PerksRob Perks, chief executive of Inspire, said: "The white paper is an interesting insight into the minds of Ministers but is long on policy direction and short on detail.

"The aims are all very worthy – improving our productivity, supporting innovation and exporting, providing better access to suitable finance for these activities and support for growing businesses in particular.

"The intention to improve infrastructure including transport and roads as well as broadband connectivity are also welcome.

"There is an intention to pump more money through the British Business Bank to provide more flexible finance as well as a substantial sum to go into Innovation support and growing our skills base.

Inspire will be working closely with local and national government to help to shape the roll out of these plans and will be involving our clients in that process as well as supporting them to access these new opportunities to grow their businesses.”

Paddy BradleyPaddy BradleyAnd Paddy Bradley, director of the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: "Local Enterprise Partnerships have been tasked with leading the development of Local Industrial Strategies.

“The industrial strategy focuses on driving skills, improving infrastructure and creating a supportive environment in which businesses can flourish. The Swindon & Wiltshire LEP embraces and supports this.”

“Swindon and Wiltshire is home to world-leading sectors including life sciences, low carbon energy technologies including hydrogen, advanced engineering in aerospace & robotics, innovation in science & defence technologies and cyber security.”

“Our five strategic economic objectives: skills and talent; transport infrastructure; digital capability; place shaping; and business development closely align with the foundations of productivity of the industrial strategy.”

“We are committed to working in partnership with the government to deliver the industrial strategy, developing our world-leading sectors to promote growth and investment, drive productivity improvements and address skills shortages.

“We are pleased that the industrial strategy affirms the government’s commitment to Local Enterprise Partnerships and Growth Hubs and the important role they play in delivering business support in the local economy.”

The strategy can be read in full at www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/662508/industrial-strategy-white-paper.pdf