Developing an industrial strategy that plays to the UK's strengths can help rebalance the UK economy towards business investment and trade.
This is the argument presented by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) in a new report entitled 'Playing Our Strongest Hand: Maximising the UK’s Industrial Opportunities'.
It outlines a joined-up approach to industrial strategy, providing indicative sector-specific action plans to make the most of the opportunities for growth in key sectors.
The organisation said that if the government adopts the right approach, it could boost exports by up to £30 billion.
"Realising our potential however requires that the UK keeps pace with its international rivals who are also seeking out the same opportunities," the CBI stated.
"This will need the government to build a world-class environment for business to operate in and then to go further - by using policy to play to our competitive advantages in a focused number of sectors."
New approach needed for UK industry
Katja Hall, chief policy director at the CBI, said the debate has moved on from whether the UK should have an industrial strategy, to what the right approach should be.
"It’s not about picking winners and it’s not about the government spending more money - rather, it's about tilting the playing field for those sectors where we have real advantages, potentially boosting our exports by up to £30 billion," she said.
"The new super-material graphene is just one example of what could be possible, and the UK has a leading position following some stunning research in our universities."
Ms Hall said the UK has a long, proud industrial heritage, and it still has a great many world-beating companies today.
"We should not be shy about talking up our success stories, in sectors from aerospace to creative industries, chemicals and pharmaceuticals to green tech," she added.
The UK's industrial strategy should be geared towards maximising their potential to capture high-growth opportunities, she said.
It should ensure these companies are helped every step of the way, not held back by mis-directed government action, Ms Hall added.
So what is the CBI recommending?
In the report, the CBI outlines a number of ways the UK's industrial strategy could be improved.
The organisation calls on the government to adopt a headline industrial vision statement to coordinate the government’s growth strategy.
It also wants greater emphasis to be placed on the UK's strengths, and for public resources to be used more strategically.
The third recommendation is to finalise a list of sectors for strategic focus - building on competitive advantages and mapping how they can be developed for the future.
Next, the CBI wants industry and government to work together, to decide on the most appropriate structure for sector leadership.
It also wants the government to work with business to implement sector action plans, identifying long-term themes to be addressed in each sector.
"We suggest concerted efforts in seven key sectors, with action plans to kick-off progress on each one - automotive, aerospace, chemicals & pharmaceuticals, agri-food, green technology and services, creative industries, knowledge-intensive business services," the CBI stated.
Last but not least, it has called on the government to develop and adopt a core set of industrial strategy Key Performance Indicators.
These should reflect progress on skills, infrastructure and energy, with timed targets and delivery plans for improvement, and report progress in an annual scorecard.
Posted by Dan Smith