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Four areas where the UK industrial strategy needs to offer a unique vision

Dr Jenifer Baxter

worker in factory
worker in factory

The UK Industrial Strategy can provide certainty for investment in industry, generate jobs and skills across supply chains and regenerate our industrial heartlands by helping to ensure that the ‘just about managing’ don’t become ‘the not quite managing’.

The UK Government’s new industrial strategy aims to reduce regional variations and support regeneration of industrial heartlands providing security for the many ‘just about managing’ families employed in industry across the UK.

This is based on a clear vision for the UK that provides certainty for industry, investors and those developing skills and education programmes. The expectation is that this will lead to increased tax revenues and higher levels of employment.

By implication, the lack of sustained direction and consistent decision making by Government is stifling development, investment and innovation across UK industry.

The Institution has identified four areas where the industrial strategy needs to offer a unique vision for the UK. 

Core engineering, technical and skills based options offer opportunities to meet the needs of industry, the regions and those ‘just about managing’ by securing activity across the UK.

Future proof housing

We need to ensure that new house building projects are designed with energy/water networks and future generations' well being as part of their design and build contracts. 

New housing developments should have smart energy systems that combine generation, storage and sharing across buildings and enable sustainable management of the dwellings and associated land.

An area of significant public-private investment is in developing combined heat and power and district heating opportunities associated with new developments.

Building standards that require ‘Scandinavian’ levels of insulation are well established as energy-demand-reduction and energy efficiency measures (cf. IMechE’s Energy Hierarchy). 

Already some countries have eco-friendly planning regulations which provide long term markets for local manufacturers of green technologies.

This both reduces stress on centralised, national supply of utilities and provides a measure of certainty they can bank on to flourish and grow.  

Some national governments have taken this further, making retrospective requirements on home-owners to implement insulation and energy efficiency measures.

The Industrial Strategy should require that such requirements are phased in through landlord licensing schemes to raise the quality of private rented housing stock, deliver affordable heating and contribute to meeting the carbon reductions already set out in UK law.

Feeding the nation

The opportunity here is to engage afresh with UK farmers: from field - where mechanisation needs may rise if EU labour is less mobile; to market – where they may seek more in-country buyers of diversified, value-added product, particularly if trade barriers arise.

Significant investment and support opportunities exist in the regional food and drink manufacturing industries. 

Government should create sustainability plans based on a regional approach.  These could improve productivity, agility (reaction from the supply chain) and efficiencies as well as digitising the supply chain and integrating real time data and removing obsolescence.

Manufacturers should be encouraged to collaborate with other industries and develop whole system thinking across the waste/energy/water and resources spectrum.

Creating a skills market

We should look to expand engineering skills brokering programmes that enable collaboration across engineering sectors and industries to ensure that skilled engineers are redeployed across UK industry. 

This applies to declining industries as well as mapping across those leaving the armed forces to civilian positions.

By growing sector strategies such as the National Skills Academy for Rail (NSAR), which define current and future needs, pathways become clearer and more easily attract young people onto them.

Building on sector strategies should facilitate the transfer of artisans, technicians and engineers between industries as they evolve – and enable individual careers to become more rounded, developing flexible problem-solving, opportunity-taking people.

At national level, we welcome approaches such as the Apprenticeship levy, the Post-16 Skills Plan and the Technical and Further Education Bill.  We see the role of accreditation and the seamless route from Apprenticeships through to Professional Registration as crucial.

Leaving the EU challenges the UK government to enable industry and academia to work closely together. An explicit industrial strategy would create a base for upskilling regional workforces to manage new industrial development.  It would open up opportunities for social mobility, regeneration and continued investment in knowledge creation and innovation. 

Building a Circular Economy

The concept of a circular economy should be at the core of a long term sustainable UK Industrial Strategy.

This includes not only the flows of materials, energy, water, and food but also the roles of productivity, remanufacture and the artisan sectors. Importantly it cannot be separated from the crosscutting skills agenda supporting the development and movement of skills across UK industry.

A circular economy in the UK can provide a foundation for economic development, regeneration and job security as well as creating regional collaborative communities. The work of the Ellen Macarthur Foundation has highlighted the new thinking necessary operate in an increasingly competitive landscape.

Leaving the EU challenges the UK government to enable industry and academia to work closely together.

An explicit industrial strategy would create a base for upskilling regional workforces to manage new industrial development. It would open up opportunities for social mobility, regeneration and continued investment in knowledge creation and innovation.

Relevant Institution reports

Heat Energy: The Nation’s forgotten crisis 

UK House Building: Manufacturing quality affordable homes

The Food and Drink Report (produced with BDO) 

Integrated Transport

Leading the change: Skills and education

Social mobility and the engineering profession

Energy Storage: The missing link in the UK’s energy commitments

Energy options to power transport

UK Freight: In for the long haul

Increasing capacity: Putting Britain’s railways back on track

Automated Vehicles: Automatically low carbon


[1] https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/news/check-out-our-growth-within-circular-economy-infographic

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