AI, robotics and STEM: UK Industrial Strategy white paper promises to “boost the earning power of people” across the country

Business Secretary Greg Clark is officially launching the government’s Industrial Strategy today, establishing its long-term plan to “boost the productivity and earning power of people throughout the UK.”

Under the plans, the government has pledged to better support the UK’s robotics and AI industry and will invest an additional £4.7 billion by 2020 in R&D – the biggest increase from any parliament since 1979.

The Industrial Strategy

The Industrial Strategy is pinned around five so-called “foundations” which cover the following: 

Ideas – making the UK the world’s most innovative economy

This foundation plans to raise the total research and development (R&D) investment to 2.4% of GDP by 2027, increase the rate of R&D tax credit to 12% and invest £725m in a new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund programmes to capture the value of innovation.

People – creating good jobs and greater earning power for all

Greg Clark has promised to establish a technical education system “that rivals the best in the world to stand alongside our world-class higher education system” and invest an additional £406 million in maths, digital and technical education, in a bit to tackle the shortfall in STEM skills. He also plans to create a new National Retraining Scheme that helps people re-skill which will include a £64 million investment for digital and construction training. 

Infrastructure – a major upgrade to the UK’s infrastructure

This foundation pledges to increase the National Productivity Investment Fund to £31 billion, which will see support given to investments in transport, housing and digital infrastructure. It also plans to support the rise of electric vehicles by investing £400 million in charging infrastructure, plus an extra £100 million to extend the plug-in car grant. Elsewhere, the government wants to boost the UK’s digital infrastructure with more than £1 billion of public investment, including £176 million for 5G and £200m for local areas to improve full fibre networks.

Business environment – making the UK the best place to start and grow a business

The Industrial Strategy wants to launch and roll-out Sector Deals; partnerships between government and industry designed to help boost productivity. The first of these deals will be in life sciences, construction, artificial intelligence and cars. The government also plans to drive over £20 billion worth of investment in “innovative and high potential businesses” by establishing a new £2.5 billion Investment Fund, managed by the British Business Bank.

Places – creating prosperous communities across the UK

The government plans to create a new Transforming Cities fund to provide £1.7 billion for transport networks.

The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund

The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund will additionally help the UK capitalise on its strengths in science and innovation such as robotics, adding another avenue for innovators to be awarded funding to help the UK become more competitive in the sector. The challenges cover AI and data economy to “put the UK at the forefront of the artificial intelligence and data revolution,” a so-called Clean Growth challenge to help business adapt to the rise in clean and renewable energy, a Future of Mobility challenge to establish the UK as a “world leader in the way people, goods and services move” and tackle the problems associated with a rising ageing population.  

“We have often been slower than competitors to take up and deploy existing technologies: for example, the UK makes less use of robotics and automation than most other countries in Western Europe,” the report explained. Prime minister Theresa May explained the government’s Modern Industrial Strategy is a critical part of the UK’s 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,” she said.
“And it is a vital step toward building a country where prosperity is shared, and there is a genuine opportunity for all.”

The Industrial Strategy also wants to address the skills gap and pledges to ensure everyone has the basic skills needed for modern industty. This will be implemented via £170 million freed up by local authorities to launch new “Institutes of Technology”.

The government will also introduce STEM and digital skills and numeracy education for everyone, raising skill levels in lagging areas. MoD apprenticeships will be used as a launchpad to fill the skills gap via on-the-job training.

Read the Industrial Strategy in full here.

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