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Academics from across Alliance MBS have contributed evidence to a hard-hitting report into the state of UK industrial strategy. The Industrial Strategy Commission has called for a complete overhaul of industrial strategy, saying there is a need for new thinking, policies and government institutions to meet today’s challenges.

A number of academics from the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research, the Health Services Research Centre, the Sustainable Consumption Institute and the Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change at Alliance MBS, have contributed evidence to the report.

They included Dr Kieron Flanagan, Prof Philip Shapira, Dr Andrew James, Prof Julie Froud, Prof Karel Williams, Prof Paula Hyde, Dr Julia Kasmire, Prof Frank Boons, Dr Jillian McCarthy and Dr Sue Maddock. Evidence from Manchester Institute of Innovation Research and Prof Graham Winch, Academic Director for Executive Education at Alliance MBS, was also directly quoted in the main body of the report.

Historic weaknesses

The report, a joint initiative between Policy@Manchester and SPERI at The University of Sheffield, says the UK economy has historic weaknesses yet its ‘people, places and industries’ have great strengths and huge potential.

To respond to current weaknesses - made more pressing due to Brexit-related uncertainty - and build on strengths, it says there is a need for strategic co-ordination of all economic interactions between the state and the private sector. “The new industrial strategy will only be successful if industrial strategy is thought about in completely new terms and if it is focused on clear goals,” it says.

Devolution

The report puts greater devolution at the heart of its proposals saying it needs to move ‘further and faster’. It says central government should devolve a “significant array of powers and budgets related to industrial policy” to sub-national political authorities, including those related to infrastructure, skills, business finance, planning and procurement, and some tax powers.

It says existing city-region and combined authority structures should be the basis for this programme, but other models should also be permitted where there is a strong consensus locally, including multi-tiered devolution whereby multiple city-regions establish a unified structure through which some powers can be exercised cross-regionally.

It adds that Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) boundaries should also coincide with the appropriate economic geography. For the most part LEPs should be retained, albeit with greater attention to how they can support strategic economic management over the long term.

Recommendations

The report says that while there is welcome and growing support for a new industrial strategy, there is currently ‘neither consensus nor clarity’ about what industrial strategy should entail or seek to achieve. Its recommendations include:

*A new powerful industrial strategy division, within the Treasury, to ensure all other departments devise and implement policies consistent with the industrial strategy.

*A new independent expert body to monitor and measure the long-term success of the new strategy.

*An industrial strategy should seek to do “something for everywhere” such that in five or 10 years’ time one can pick anywhere in the UK and say how the strategy has helped that place, its people and industries.

*Achieving better outcomes for people’s wellbeing must be central to the strategy. New thinking can ensure health and social care aligns with industrial strategy.

*Decision-making for large strategic projects needs to be overhauled. Cost-benefit analysis should ‘apply to the real world, not just to a spreadsheet’.

Six strategic goals are also identified. These include: decarbonisation of the energy economy; ensuring adequate investment in infrastructure; developing a sustainable health and social care system; unlocking long-term investment; supporting high-value industries and building export capacity; and enabling growth in all parts of the UK.

An executive summary of the report can be found here, and a full report here