The Industrial Strategy and how it will help Science

Are you confused about what the Industrial Strategy is when it was announced last year? If you are, read on to learn about it, how it will help science and how you can get involved, and remember you can always follow any of the institutes/ initiatives mentioned here by following the links.


What is the Industrial Strategy?

Put simply, it is a strategic economic policy. Its goal is “to improve living standards and economic growth by increasing productivity and driving growth across the whole country.” It addresses three challenges as Greg Clark (Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) outlines in the Green Paper: it will build on strengths and extend excellence; it will address underperformance and will make the UK a competitive place to start and grow a business.

The Green paper published on the 23 January 2017 outlined ten pillars at the heart of this strategy that were selected because evidence had shown they drive growth: ‘Science Research and Innovation’, ‘Skills’, ‘Infrastructure’, ‘Business growth and investment’, ‘Procurement’, ‘Trade and investment’, ‘Affordable energy’, ‘Sectoral policies’, ‘Driving growth across the whole country’ and finally ‘Creating the right institutions to bring together sectors and places’.


Why now?

Well, the previous version of an institute responsible for economic policy- the National Economic Development Office failed as a result of policy failures in Britain during the 1970’s (The Guardian). This was followed by a period of economic neglect where there was no intervention by the government to stimulate such growth. But as the UK government saw successful interventions taking place in other countries (such as the USA, South Korea and Germany) they now want to do something about it, and it has come at a good time as many people especially those in the sciences have welcomed this strategy.


How does it help science?

For starters, science is one of the pillars at its core. The Green Paper (which gives just an initial collection of ideas) lays out a considerable amount of detail but here I provide a brief summary:

Remember that extra £2 billion per year to increase the Research and Development investment by 2020 and a review of the tax environment mentioned in the Autumn Budget speech? That is already underway. In addition to that, there will also be an investment into facilities and knowledge.

Extra support will be available for Science and Innovation Audits in eight new locations to develop an evidence base of research strengths and innovation capability. A high level forum on ‘EU Exit, Universities and Research and Innovation’ has already been set up to give advice on building UK research following Brexit, and a consultation on the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund has already began with Innovate to focus on scientific areas that have market potential. Check out their list to see if your discipline is on it.

A review will also be conducted to see if a new institute on battery and grid technology, and energy storage will be needed. Finally, the Government will be commissioning independent approaches to commercialisations, they will be looking into Intellectual Property Office issues, there will be prizes to stimulate innovation and they will be setting out a UK Measurement Strategy.

Now of course science doesn’t function on its own. It will interact with the other pillars e.g. ‘Skills’ and ‘Affordable energy’ just to mention a few. But it will also be affected by the Higher Education Bill currently progressing through Parliament which brings the research councils together under the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) which will be headed by Sir Mark Walport.


What has happened so far?

Back in November 2016, the Prime Minister Mrs Theresa May announced at the Confederation of British Industry conference her plan for the Industrial Strategy. This was immediately echoed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond in his Autumn Budget speech. December 2016 and January 2017 were filled with workshops by experts providing their views, especially Innovate and the Research Councils for the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

The 23 January saw Theresa May launching her first regional Cabinet meeting to start on proposals for the strategy. The same day, the Green Paper was published with its call for people to submit (take a look at this groovy little video!) With the paper, is a list of potential questions to consider posed to anyone who wishes to contribute. CaSE responded to the Green Paper and the following day Diane Coyle (member of the Industrial Strategy Commission) wrote her piece in the Guardian placing this new strategy in context. On the 16 February, POST held an event to discuss and share ideas about how the strategy will boost science, research and development, and on the 22 February, the House of Commons Select Science and Technology Committee  held its own consultation session with representatives from Universities UK, the Universities of Hertfordshire and Sussex, Royal Society, Bioindustry Association, Nesta and the Royal Academy of Engineering (you can watch the full session [approximately 2 hours] here).


How is the University of Sheffield involved?

Together with the Policy@Manchester, the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) has created the joint Industrial Strategy Commission which is an independent and authoritative look into the development of the Industrial Strategy. It is chaired by Dame Kate Barker and members include some from the University of Manchester, staff members from SPERI and Professor Richard Jones who was the Pro- Vice Chancellor of Sheffield University from 2009- 2016 (you can read his blog on the Industrial Strategy here). On the 2 February they put out a call for evidence hoping to receive submissions on the following themes: ‘Assessing the economy’, ‘Future challenges and opportunities’ (including science and innovation), ‘Role of the state’, ‘Making and implementing policies’ and ‘Learning lessons from the past’.


What is next?

Now the Green Paper is out and the submission deadline is the 17 April 2017. The Industrial Commission will be launched next week in London on the 6 March. Their deadline for submissions is 2 May 2017 and they hope to publish their key findings in July 2017 with a report in September.


The Industrial Strategy is in its early stages and by welcoming a variety of views it can evolve and become something remarkable for both the economy and science, so even if you do not contribute, do make sure to follow its news.


Danae Dodge

I received my PhD in Scientific Archaeology from the University of Sheffield in 2011 which specialised in ancient DNA and anthropology. For my profile, see my websites: I started getting involved in Science Brainwaves as a volunteer in 2010. I have volunteered at presentations, events (such as the British Science Festival in 2011) and even participated in the Science is Vital protest march in October 2010. My first blog for Science Brainwaves was "Ancient Humans: Who were they? And who got it on?" which was the written version of a talk I gave for the Natural History Society at the University of Sheffield on 5 December 2011. I also have a public engagement page dedicated to ancient DNA, which I encourage both the public and specialists to join: