News ID: 176334
Published: 0256 GMT January 24, 2017

British businesses welcome May's new industrial vision

British businesses welcome May's new industrial vision

Businesses have given a cautious welcome to UK government's new industrial strategy, which sets out Prime Minister Theresa May's vision for the country as it negotiates a complex exit from the European Union.

The 132-page green paper, which is now open to public consultation, outlines ways in which the government will support the economy, including billions of pounds worth of investment in life sciences and technology and an education system with new technical qualifications for people who want an alternative to university, according to The Telegraph.

May also wants to pump money into the country's aging infrastructure, helping to rebalance the economy from south to north, and focus training on the key areas of science, technology, engineering and maths.

A new ‘industrial strategy challenge fund’ will be set up to support science and innovation, including robotics, clean energy and biotechnology. It could, for example, fund joint research projects between businesses and academics.

Pascal Soriot, chief executive of AstraZeneca, said the policies would "help unlock the  great potential of the UK life science sector to lead in areas such as the treatment of cancer".

Three other ideas mooted in the report are helping small businesses get better access to funding, building clusters of industry across the country and moving key institutions to those clusters and launching new infrastructure bonds.

James Sproule, director of policy at the Institute of Directors, praised the ‘joined-up thinking, but called for an immigration policy to prevent any skills shortages.

"The UK has considerable strengths, but in areas like education, transport and our broadband network, improvements are needed to make sure the country is ready to meet the future," he added.

David Petrie, head of corporate finance for the Institute of Chartered Accountants for England and Wales said extra, long-term funding for capital-intensive companies in areas such as life sciences and engineering would help them succeed.

The document also set out plans to take a more ‘strategic approach’ to public procurement, which is the way the state awards lucrative contracts to companies. This would create more opportunities for small businesses and ensure that UK companies are in the strongest position to compete for contracts, the consultation paper said.

Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the Confederation of British Industry, said the creation of a new industrial strategy was a ‘landmark opportunity’ for the country.

"It must help fix the country’s productivity problems and remove the regional inequalities that have dogged our country for generations," she said. "It’s welcome to see the government creating an opportunity for all sectors to get involved."

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