Britain's top business groups have thrown their weight behind government plans for a sweeping new industrial strategy, seeking to boost productivity across every sector and in every corner of the country.
Prime Minister Theresa May will launch a green paper in the north west today by calling on businesses and workers “to help us create a high-skilled economy where every place can meet its potential”.
The government wants firms and trade groups to sign up to so-called "sector deals", allowing them to call for specific measures to boost their industries. Such arrangements could see the government slash red tape, help with exports, or "support the creation of new institutions to provide leadership, support innovation or boost skills".
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The plans are core to May's more interventionist approach to the economy compared to her predecessor David Cameron.
Ahead of today's launch, May said her industrial strategy would be “underpinned by a new approach to government, not just stepping back but stepping up to a new, active role that backs business and ensures more people in all corners of the country share in the benefits of its success.”
Responding to the launch, CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn said: “A modern industrial strategy will be a landmark opportunity to build a successful, modern economy as the foundation for a prosperous, fairer and more inclusive society.
“It must help fix the country’s productivity problems and remove the regional inequalities that have dogged our country for generations, having a positive impact on living standards, wages and the future opportunities of many people.”
Similarly, Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce and Terry Scuoler, chief executive of manufacturers' association EEF, both said today's launch would represent “an important first step” towards more collaboration between government and industry, while the Federation of Small Businesses welcomed £170m of funding for new Institutes of Technology, announced over the weekend.
A government consultation will call for suggestions on how to make it easier for business to access finance outside London, while ministers have also revealed that £556m of funding will be dedicated to Northern Powerhouse projects including new conference facilities in Blackpool and an innovation fund for Manchester and Cheshire businesses.
The consultation is based around a list of 10 “strategic pillars” on which May's industrial strategy will rest, including a desire to use “strategic” government procurement to drive innovation, suggesting that public sector organisations could be directed to buy from British firms.
The government will consult on the plans for 12 weeks, with a white paper expected to be published including more detailed plans for reform later this year.