CBI calls for a 'leapfrog' industrial strategy in the tech age

New study by the CBI suggests 90 per cent of firms desire an overarching industrial strategy. The strategy will be aimed at boosting the UK in the new technological age as automation continues to grow.

Carolyn Fairbairn CBI director general
The CBI believes the fourth industrial revolution is on our doorstep, and the UK is in a position to benefit from it. It believes with the strong eco-system of large and small firms, science base, innovation and talent pools, the UK can be one of the world’s winners. The prize would be reversal of the UK’s poor productivity record, rising living standards and a fairer society.

Technology and productivity

As many as 35 per cent of jobs could be displaced by automation and artificial intelligence: new ones may take their place, but will require a strategic approach to retraining. The CBI suggests it needs to be long-term, rooted in a new ’partnership of the century’ between government and business, and crucially, it needs to be a ‘leapfrog’ strategy, aimed at the UK overtaking competitors, not just catching up.The survey of over 400 firms, published on the 6th of November, showed a strong consensus among firms (82 per cent) that suggest the main pillars of our new industrial strategy need to be people, infrastructure and innovation. Respondents suggest that all three need to be transformed to power a new, modern economy.Uncertainty is taking its toll, with key concerns including: uncertain economic outlook (54 per cent) and what post-Brexit trade will look like (39 per cent).
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The CBI has recommended the creation of an independent Industrial Strategy body, similar to the OBR, that could measure, advise and build confidence that this plan will last.Regional industrial strategies are seen as a large part of the solution. Every region of the UK has special strengths that can be unlocked by devolution and tailored strategies. To ensure no part of the UK is left behind, the CBI recommended the appointment of a regional commissioner to oversee delivery, regardless of local political structures.Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said, “As uncertainty continues to bite on the UK economy, there has never been a more important time for the UK to unite behind a ‘leapfrog’ industrial strategy. The aim is to enable British firms to compete and win in the new technology age. It is also urgent. Change is coming at lightning speed and the world won’t wait for Britain.“This means we can’t afford to let Brexit distract from the long-term action that is so badly needed. What’s at stake is the UK’s future in a global economy redefined by artificial intelligence and automation. Brexit must not be allowed to crowd this out.“A leapfrog industrial strategy is within reach but not easy and will require a partnership of the century between government and business. Nobody wants to have this conversation again in four years’ time, and jobs and opportunity won’t wait around.”The UK's strategic future_Industrial Strategy.pdfSome of the main survey findings include:
  • 89 per cent believe that a modern Industrial Strategy could be a significant opportunity to improve living standards across the UK by 2030
  • Uncertainty is constraining investment with key concerns including: uncertain economic outlook (54 per cent) and what post-Brexit trade will look like (39 per cent)
  • Business is clear that people (28 per cent), innovation (27 per cent) and infrastructure (27 per cent) will drive living standards across regions and sectors. Over 80 per cent are clear that unless we prioritise these, work on place (2 per cent) and sectors (17 per cent) will falter
  • Clear risks to its successful implementation include: lack of a long-term vision (35 per cent); lack of attention to Industrial Strategy by Government due to Brexit (29 per cent), lack of cross-party buy-in (15 per cent)
  • 42 per cent of firms believe that devolution is a significant enabler to making Industrial Strategy a success, with half (50 per cent) stating that better collaboration between local authorities and business will be essential
To deliver the Industrial Strategy successfully, the CBI has urged the Government to:
  • Build a new style of partnership between government and business, tasked with leapfrog thinking in skills and retraining, infrastructure and innovation
  • Set up a joint commission on Artificial Intelligence in 2018, involving both business and employee representatives, to better understand the impact on people’s lives, jobs and our future economic growth
  • Deliver on the recommendations as laid out by the industrial digitalisation review, chaired by Siemens UK CEO Juergen Maier
  • Establish an independent Industrial Strategy Office – similar to the Office for Budget Responsibility – to measure and monitor performance and give impartial advice on industrial strategy progress
  • Appoint an independent commissioner to ensure all regions of the UK have appropriate levels of devolution to deliver the Industrial Strategy
  • Work across the party spectrum to ensure that strategy sits above political cycles

Digital technology and economic growth

“The Industrial Strategy presents an opportunity for Government to take on board, and implement, some of the bold ideas being recommended by industry, such as those laid out in the recent Made Smarter Review,” Said, Olly Benzecry, UK & Ireland managing director at Accenture, the management consultant company.Mr Benzecry continued, “This review highlighted how digital technologies, such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality and robotics have huge potential to bring about economic growth, increased productivity and jobs.  Realising this opportunity can make a real difference to the UK’s industrial future.”Nigel Heap, managing director of Hays recruitment agency UK & Ireland, commented, “The results of this survey mirror the findings of our own recent Hays UK Salary & Recruiting Trends 2018 guide, where we found that 59 per cent of employers stated that skills shortages are negatively impacting on productivity.“If we are going to make headway and ensure that the industrial strategy is a success, we need to make sure businesses have access to the skills they need in order succeed. Businesses are looking for certainty, which in turn would lead to stronger business confidence and job creation, allowing Britain to take a stronger position on the global stage.For related news and features, visit our Enterprise section.Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory  

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