UK Gov’s plan to embrace the opportunities of technological change

The aim of the flagship Industrial Strategy is to boost the UK economy, build on the country’s strengths and embrace the opportunities of technological change.

The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund will invest £725 million in new programmes to capture the value of innovation, ‘making the country the world’s most innovative nation by 2030,’ boasts the white paper.

This will include £170 million to transform the construction sector and help create affordable places to live and work that are safer, healthier and use less energy, and up to £210 million to improve early diagnosis of illnesses and develop precision medicine for patients across the UK.

>See also: Technology dominates Autumn Budget as key to UK’s growth

This follows the previous £1 billion commitment of the government for the first wave of Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund projects, including investing £246 million in next generation battery technology and £86 million in robotics hubs across the UK.

The first four sectors to benefit from this government plan are construction, artificial intelligence (AI), automotive and life sciences. The strategy will help these sectors grow and equip businesses for future opportunities, backed by private sector co-investment. ‘Work will continue with other sectors on transformative sector deals,’ said the white paper.

Ahead of the signing of the ‘Life Sciences Sector Deal’, due in the next few weeks, the government has confirmed today that world-leading life sciences company MSD is set to make a major investment into the UK economy with the opening of a new state-of-the-art UK hub, helping ensure innovative research into future treatments for patients and pioneering medicines are completed in Britain.

The investment announced by MSD today will support a new world-leading life sciences discovery research facility in the UK, supporting 950 jobs.

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

>See also: The UK is the digital capital of Europe: Tech Nation 2017

“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.”

Grand challenges

In the strategy, the government has identified 4 Grand Challenges; global trends that will shape our rapidly changing future and which the UK must embrace to ensure we harness all the opportunities they bring. The 4 are:

Artificial intelligence – ‘we will put the UK at the forefront of the artificial intelligence and data revolution’.
Clean growth – we will maximise the advantages for UK industry from the global shift to clean growth.
Ageing society – we will harness the power of innovation to help meet the needs of an ageing society.
Future of mobility – we will become a world leader in the way people, goods and services move.

Each ‘Grand Challenge’ represents an open invitation to business, academia and civil society to work and engage with the government to innovate, develop new technologies and ensure the UK seizes these global opportunities.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “The way we earn and live our lives as workers, citizens and consumers is being transformed by new technologies. The UK is well-placed to benefit from this new industrial revolution and we start from a position of significant strength. We have a thriving research and science base and are home to a wide range of innovative sectors, from advanced manufacturing and life sciences, to fintech and creative industries.”

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“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.”

“The white paper follows extensive engagement by government with industry, academia and business bodies who submitted almost 2,000 responses to the green paper consultation earlier in 2017.”

“The strategy unveiled today reflects this engagement, with a new and unique partnership between government, academia and industry, supported by policies that are committed to making the UK economy more productive and giving it a competitive edge in the future and abroad.”

Industry view

The Industrial Strategy is intended to push the UK towards the forefront of the data-driven revolution.

The plan and level of investment is just the starting point, however. And there are those that believe it is still not enough to plug the digital skills gap facing industries across the country.

Laurie Miles, director of Analytics at SAS UK & Ireland commented: “Finally, the Government has woken up and recognised that getting ahead in the digital economy is vital to Britain’s productivity puzzle.”

“For years, businesses have been crying out for more support to take advantage of the opportunities that new technology provides. With its new industrial strategy, the Government must now put its money where its mouth is and support the national workforce in unlocking its own potential.”

>See also: How to address the skills gap in the tech sector 

“Addressing the UK’s well-documented digital skills gap remains a major obstacle to overhauling the productivity slump. To create a sustainable economy requires greater use of data and technology to reinvigorate and grow many sectors – this includes manufacturing, professional services, retail banking and telecoms. Our research indicates that big data and the Internet of Things can create 182,000 new jobs in these sectors from 2015-2020, and inject £322 billion of additional revenue into the UK economy.”

“While it’s pleasing to see steps being taken to invest in the fourth industrial revolution, much more needs to be done to encourage the take-up and development of skills that will be needed to see it through. Only then, will we create an innovative culture effective for driving the UK forward in this global and competitive market.”

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...