Industry Insight: The demise of the Industrial Strategy

Thursday 18 March 2021, 11:58 AM

4 Minute Read

Chris Greenough is the Chief Commercial Officer of Shrewsbury-based SDE Technology, one of the leading manufacturers of pressings and assemblies in the UK. Chris has championed the British manufacturing sector for more than two decades, particularly SMEs. He has submitted this article in response to the Government’s recent announcement.    

There has always been business support from Government, and this support is always welcomed by business. The manufacturing sector in this country needs to be engaged, supported, and promoted, to make sure we have a sector that can help drive the economy.

Without a very strong manufacturing sector we simply cannot have a robust and healthy economy. I have worked in the sector for over twenty-six years and seen the highs and lows of economic effects on manufacturing. The headwinds over the last five years have been unprecedented, from the Brexit vote in 2016, and the ongoing voting and posturing that followed until we left in January 2021, to the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020 that changed the way we live and work.

For me, one positive in all this was the introduction of the Industrial Strategy in 2017, giving everyone and every business the chance to feed into a long-term plan for the country. I took advantage of this chance to help scope policy and made sure I spent time and effort feeding into local Council, Local Enterprise Partnerships and straight into Central Government. I, as many businesses did at the time, thought that this was a great opportunity to help steer key decision on the future of our country, our voices were being heard – great news.

There were round table events, questionnaires and calls for input, it looked as if this was a real game changer in terms of ongoing business support.

So, this week has been a real disappointment to me, and I am sure many other business leaders. The Industrial Strategy has been scrapped, shelved and is no more. The Government are reportedly dropping the strategy in favour of a more ad hoc approach to supporting economic growth.

Firstly, to drop the Industrial Strategy, without a clear replacement plan is not the way we expect our policy makers to act. There must have been discussion on what to do next, and even if there is an outline of a plan this would surely be better than no plan at all?

Secondly, I know we are in unprecedented times, and I can see that to be reactive and fast moving is something we all will have to do, but this is very much different than ad hoc. We need more than support when it is necessary or needed, we need support that is planned, maintained and long term. The whole point of a strategy is exactly that.

The Industrial Strategy should feed and support the visions of the future, from the call to have all-electric car sales by 2030, the need to look for new greener manufacturing process and techniques and have a clear plan for carbon reduction.

Business must have a feed in to policy, business needs to have a voice, and SMEs must be allowed to make their needs known so that they can invest and create wealth for our country. Many capital investments have long-term payback and so we must have a long-term plan.

I look forward to seeing what plans come out from Westminster in the coming weeks and will continue to monitor and discuss the ways out manufacturing sector is supported.


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