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Cautious optimism for Government’s industrial strategy

02 February, 2017

The launch of the Government’s industrial strategy plan recently has been greeted with cautious optimism by industry.

Dr Colin Brown, director of engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers commented that the Government’s pledge to focus on developing technical skills is an encouraging step: “The UK urgently needs to raise its game in the development of a highly-skilled, technically-trained workforce to underpin our future economy, particularly in light of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

“There needs to be greater investment in a range of broad technical skills to develop an agile and resilient workforce rather than simply job-specific training. This is not about businesses absolving themselves of any responsibility for training staff, but about providing more people with the fundamental skills that will boost their career prospects and help business, and the UK economy more widely, prosper. The right industrial strategy has the potential to increase opportunities for fulfilling skilled jobs for more people from all backgrounds, leading to a fairer and more stable society.”

He explained that other key areas that the Government has pledged to support include delivering affordable clean energy, upgrading infrastructure and providing a new £4.7billion research and development (R&D) fund: “While these pledges are broadly positive, they must be underpinned by a radical overhaul of current policy. For example, Government has scrapped plans for the Carbon Capture and Storage demonstration project, which is the only viable technology that could decarbonise our electricity sector in the medium-term.”

He warned however that although the UK has a great history of innovation, UK companies have often struggled to bridge the investment barrier of commercialisation between development and bringing a product to market. “The new £4.7billion R&D fund must look to help companies overcome this ‘valley of death’ by supporting long term financial security.”

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