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 industrial strategies. The massive societal impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and the stark geographical divides which it has illuminated, make it all the important that we devise an industrial strategy which can help restore economic growth in the coming years, and generate tangible benefits for all.
Michael Kenny and Diane Coyle
Co-Directors of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy