Published on 3 October 2021
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Industrial Policy: Learning from the past

As a result of the institutional inability to learn from experience, British industrial policy suffers from policy inconsistency and coordination failures.

The UK’s industrial policy since the 1970s has been characterised by frequent policy reversals and announcements, driven by political cycles, while multiple uncoordinated public bodies, departments and levels of government are responsible for delivery.

This paper explores the impacts of these deficiencies of the industrial policymaking landscape in the UK and contrasts them with the experiences of other advanced economies.

A consequence of the policy inconsistency and poor coordination identified here is that UK industrial policy lacks adequate information feedback channels from outcomes to the policy process; there is a failure to learn or to build on successes.

Some potential options for reform, embedding a more systematic mechanism of policy updating, are also explored, considering lessons from other countries that could be feasibly implemented in the UK.

  • Blog: Can the UK learn from past failures to develop an effective industrial policy?
  • Podcast: Levelling Up through industrial policy, institutions and fiscal mechanisms
    In this Productivity Puzzles podcast episode, Professor Diane Coyle talks to host Bart van Ark talks with fellow guests, Andy Westwood and Philip McCann, about research relating to UK industrial policy, local growth and fiscal implications of governance devolution.


Diane Coyle 2018

Professor Diane Coyle

Bennett Professor of Public Policy and Co-Director of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy

Professor Coyle co-directs the Bennett Institute with Professor Kenny. She is heading research under the progress and productivity themes. Biography Professor Dame Diane Coyle is the Bennett Professor of Public Policy at...

Adam Muhtar

Affiliated Researcher

Adam Muhtar is a Data Scientist at the Bank of England, working on projects that aim to generate actionable insights from high-dimensional unstructured data using natural language processing, network science,...

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