LONDON — The government is putting cutting edge technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), 5G wireless internet, “smart” energy technology, and robotics at the heart of its new post-Brexit industrial strategy.
Theresa May is set to launch the government’s “Modern Industrial Strategy” on Monday at a regional meeting of the cabinet in the North West.
The Prime Minister announced in a release on Sunday evening that the strategy would be focused around ten key strategic pillars, the first of which is: “Investing in science, research, and innovation.”
The release says that the £4.7 billion increase in research & development (R&D) funding announced in last year’s Autumn Statement is central to the new industrial strategy. This investment will go to areas such as AI and robotics, Number 10 says. These are the only specific industries name checked in the release.
Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark says in the release that the new Modern Industrial Strategy will “improve living standards and drive economic growth across the whole country.”
Multiple forecasting agencies have predicted that technologies such as robotics and AI are likely to destroy millions of jobs globally in everything from customer service to asset management. The World Economic Forum estimates that 5 million net jobs could be destroyed by 2020 while Citi and Oxford University estimate that 57% of jobs across the OECD are at risk of automation.
The government appears to be hoping to “future proof” Britain against this rising tide of automation by turning us into a nation of highly skilled technical workers who can help enable the AI and robotics revolution rather than fall victim to it.
As part of the Modern Industrial Strategy, the government is planning to spend £170 million to establish new “Institutes of Technology,” which will provide high-skilled technical training tailored to employers’ needs and offer people an alternative to university.
Theresa May said in a release announcing the new “Institutes of Technology”: “Our modern Industrial Strategy is a critical part of our plan for post-Brexit Britain.
“As we leave the EU it will help us grasp the bigger prize: the chance to build that stronger, fairer Britain that stands tall in the world and is set up to succeed in the long-term. And it is a vital step towards building a country where prosperity is shared and there is genuine opportunity for all.”
May said that the Modern Industrial Strategy represents “a new approach to government, not just stepping back but stepping up to a new, active role that backs business and ensures more people in all corners of the country share in the benefits of its success.”
May signalled in her speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week that she would take a more interventionist approach to growth and the economy than her predecessors. Part of this new approach includes the proposal for “Sector Deals” as part of the Modern Industrial Strategy. This involves companies proposing specific plans for their own industries that will “address sector-specific challenges and opportunities.”
As part of these new “Sector Deals,” the government says it is “prepared to offer a range of support, including addressing regulatory barriers to innovation and growth, looking at how we can use trade and investment deals to increase exports, or supporting the creation of new institutions to provide leadership, support innovation or boost skills.”
Adam Marshall, Director General, British Chambers of Commerce, said in a statement: “The developing Industrial Strategy represents a crucial first milestone in a renewed partnership between business and government, working together to create the conditions for future growth.”
Here are the government’s ten strategic pillars for its new industrial strategy in full:
- Investing in science, research and innovation — We must become a more innovative economy and do more to commercialise our world leading science base to drive growth across the UK.
- Developing skills — We must help people and businesses to thrive by: ensuring everyone has the basic skills needed in a modern economy; building a new system of technical education to benefit the half of young people who do not go to university; boosting STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) skills, digital skills and numeracy; and by raising skill levels in lagging areas.
- Upgrading infrastructure — We must upgrade our standards of performance on digital, energy, transport, water and flood defence infrastructure, and better align central government infrastructure investment with local growth priorities.
- Supporting businesses to start and grow — We must ensure that businesses across the UK can access the finance and management skills they need to grow; and we must create the right conditions for companies to invest for the long term.
- Improving procurement — We must use strategic government procurement to drive innovation and enable the development of UK supply chains;
- Encouraging trade and inward investment policy — Government policy can help boost productivity and growth across our economy, including by increasing competition and helping to bring new ways of doing things to the UK.
- Delivering affordable energy and clean growth — We need to keep costs down for businesses, and secure the economic benefits of the transition to a low-carbon economy.
- Cultivating world-leading sectors — We must build on our areas of competitive advantage, and help new sectors to flourish, in many cases challenging existing institutions and incumbents;
- Driving growth across the whole country — We will create a framework to build on the particular strengths of different places and address factors that hold places back — whether it is investing in key infrastructure projects to encourage growth, increasing skill levels, or backing local innovation strengths.
- Creating the right institutions to bring together sectors and places — We will consider the best structures to support people, industries and places. In some places and sectors there may be missing institutions which we could create, or existing ones we could strengthen, be they local civic or educational institutions, trade associations or financial networks.
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