Published on 19 February 2020
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Inside the black box of manufacturing

Inside the black box of manufacturing

This paper is the first in our series:
An Industrial Strategy for Tomorrow


Dr. Jostein Hauge is an economist and a Research Associate at the Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (Institute for Manufacturing) at the University of Cambridge. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. His research focuses on economic development, industrialisation, technological change, international trade, globalisation, and the role of the state in economic change.

Dr Eoin O’Sullivan’s policy-focused research explores what makes national innovation systems effective at translating new science and engineering ideas into novel technologies and emerging industries. Research projects are designed to support the evidence needs of technology and innovation policymakers, in particular those officials in public research agencies who are responsible for programme design, portfolio management and strategy development. Research projects are distinguished by efforts to more carefully characterize the technologies, application systems and industrial structures involved in the journey from research to economic wealth.

Published: February 2020

Introduction – An Industrial Strategy for Tomorrow

For the newly elected government in the UK, like many of its counterparts elsewhere, industrial strategy has become the most important institutional vehicle through which it seeks to achieve some of its core goals. These include promoting economic growth, tackling falling productivity growth, designing research and innovation policies that will enhance the strengths of the UK economy, and ensuring that its leading sectors are globally competitive. 

Its declared commitment to ‘levelling up’ the performance and opportunities of poorer regions with wealthier and more productive ones is also connected to its industrial strategy. This shift in UK government thinking mirrors developments elsewhere, as a range of international organisations and various western governments have recently proclaimed their commitment to ‘place-based’ economic development strategies.

Some experts in this area argue that there exists a template or model that the UK could import from other leading economies. At the Bennett Institute, however, we take a different tack. We have been working with some of the leading researchers at Cambridge, and engaging key decision-makers in government, to interrogate more deeply some of the dilemmas and challenges facing those tasked with designing and evaluating the industrial strategy, and the local strategies which government has encouraged some of its metro-mayoral authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships in England to develop. Our belief is that these will only succeed if they understand and address today’s social and economic needs from place to place, and align with the key dynamics shaping the economy emerging in the coming decades.

Each of the papers in this series offers an in-depth examination of some of the fundamental issues – concerning data, measurement, definition, research policy and strategic ambition – which will determine how well governments across the UK fare in this area. Some of these draw upon evidence from other countries, and some offer arguments and proposals that are germane internationally, as well as applying to the UK. 

Our aim in publishing these is to enrich and stimulate thinking and debate about some of the core precepts and goals of the industrial strategy which we need for tomorrow, not just today.

Michael Kenny and Diane Coyle
Co-Directors of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy

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