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Ambitious industrial strategy aims to boost innovation

Joseph Flaig

The government wants to see research and development investment rise to 2.4% of GDP by 2027 (Credit: iStock)
The government wants to see research and development investment rise to 2.4% of GDP by 2027 (Credit: iStock)

The government has released its new Industrial Strategy aimed at making the UK “the world’s most innovative nation by 2030”.

The white paper from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) includes a range of industry-wide targets, goals and funding, such as increasing research and development investment to 2.4% of GDP by 2027, and 3% in the longer term. 

The strategy also promises £725m for an innovation-nurturing “challenge fund,” and pledges to prioritise rapid adoption of artificial intelligence (AI). Here’s our rundown of some of the important policies. 

Manufacturing

• Digital technology such as AI and big data are a huge opportunity for manufacturing, and the UK cannot afford to be complacent and miss potential growth, says the strategy. The sector is one of six selected for rapid adoption of AI.

• Building on previous decarbonisation plans, the strategy says the government will develop a scheme for industrial energy efficiency, including ways of cutting energy use and bills while improving productivity. 

• BEIS said it wants innovation centres known as Catapults to play a bigger role in connecting customers and supply chains for quicker and easier production.   

• The government hopes to improve supply chains to secure international investment and keep high-value manufacturing in the UK. It will launch a competitiveness programme and encourage industry leaders to follow best practice “as exemplified by the automotive sector”. 

Railways

• The strategy promises £1.7bn for the Transforming Cities Fund, for better transport connections to improve productivity in and around cities.  

• As today’s data-intensive applications leave 4G mobile internet increasingly lacking, the strategy includes £35m for a trial of trackside 5G technology. This includes money for infrastructure alongside the Trans-Pennine route between Manchester, Leeds and York.

• Digital technology including AI could “transform” the railways, says the strategy. Investment includes £84m for in-cab digital signalling across a range of trains and £10m for digital railway technology between Manchester and York and on routes in the South East. 

Automotive

• Chancellor Philip Hammond pledged in the budget that driverless cars would be on the roads by 2021. The Industrial Strategy sets out supporting policies for this vision, including a review of legislation and an innovation prize from the National Infrastructure Commission to determine how road building should adapt for autonomous vehicles. 

• As the government tries to wean the nation off hydrocarbons, it is investing in electric cars. The strategy includes £200m for charging infrastructure, to be matched by private investors, £100m for the plug-in car grant, £40m R&D funding – again matched by industry – for on-street and wireless charging, and a commitment to make 25% of all cars in the government fleet ultra-low emission by 2022. 

This article appears in the December/ January issue of Professional Engineering magazine.


Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
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