LONDON: The British government unveiled an industrial strategy focused on research and innovation on Monday, in an effort to boost poor productivity and to shield the economy from Brexit.
“As we leave the European Union we need to raise our game at home and on the world stage,” business minister Greg Clark announced in his 255-page consultation paper.
The strategy has been in discussion for 18 months since Theresa May became prime minister, and aims to make the UK the world’s most innovative nation by 2030.
The government’s fiscal watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility, gave a pessimistic outlook for the UK’s productivity to coincide with finance minister Philip Hammond’s budget last week.
Monday’s strategy re-iterates the government’s target of increasing investment in research and development from 1.7 percent of GDP to the OECD average of 2.4 percent.
It proposes also £725 million ($970 million, 811 million euros) of investment for an existing Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, currently at £1.0 billion.
Maths, digital and technical education will receive £406 million, while £200 million will be set aside for boosting internet connectivity in local areas.
The paper draws attention to “grand challenges” the UK must engage with, including artificial intelligence and an ageing society.
“This announcement shows the government has its eye firmly on the horizon,” said Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the UK’s biggest business lobby group, the CBI.
But ministers are “missing a trick if they don’t listen to the factory floor”, said Frances O’Grady, leader of British union umbrella group the TUC.
“A key reason behind the success of Germany’s industrial strategy is that government, business and unions all sit down together. And plan decades ahead,” she said.
“The UK should be following this blueprint.”
Two pharmaceutical companies meanwhile boosted the strategy’s emphasis on promoting the life sciences industry, alongside construction and the automotive sector, by announcing key UK investments on Monday.
American pharmaceutical company MSD said it will open a new research facility and headquarters in London, with capacity to support 950 high-skilled jobs, while German group Qiagen will invest in a genomics and diagnostics campus in Manchester, northwest England.