The new Industrial Strategy: What role does Higher Education play in regional economic development and growth? We break down the new government strategy to give you all the relevant HE details.
This week we welcomed the UK Government’s new Industrial Strategy proposal. The whitepaper addressed low levels of economic productivity that has pushed policymakers toward a comprehensive industrial strategy with cross-sector collaboration at the heart of policy. Throughout the paper, references are made to the quality of the UK’s Higher Education sector, specifically its top measures of research excellence and its global leadership in research and development. It also asked (and attempts to answer) the following question: why the UK does so well with research but not implementation?
The theme of the whitepaper (for our Higher Education policy enthusiasts) is the lack of continuity between the lab and industry. More simply put, how can sectors collaborate to implement the excellence in research discovery and boost local economic productivity? Or as the paper so eloquently puts it:
“Within R&D, the ‘D’ for development needs a particular boost.”
It is a question that was asked by Jo Johnson not so long ago in the same speech, where we were first introduced to a potential Knowledge Exchange Framework, a framework which the paper calls upon UK Research and Innovation to create.
There are plenty of references to business and university partnerships being used to drive growth. However, there is also an admission on the part of policymakers which echoes sentiment in the sector:
“We have studied previous attempts at industrial strategy, which have had successes as well as failures. One lesson is that governments cannot do this on their own, instructing and planning but never listening or consulting. So our Industrial Strategy is a partnership with businesses, workers, universities and colleges, local government and the devolved administrations where we work together to achieve our goals.”
Breaking down barriers between universities, businesses (small and medium-sized businesses were emphasized as drivers throughout the paper) and the civil sector is cited as a priority if the UK wishes to tackle the four Grand Challenges outlined in the paper.
Technical education was certainly addressed, particularly as it intersects with STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths). The government acknowledges that insufficient attention has been given to technical education and apprenticeships. When addressing the vocational-academic divide, as it relates to national economic productivity, the paper states:
“We will put technical education on the same footing as our academic system, with apprenticeships and qualifications such as T-levels.”
Additionally, universities are specifically cited as drivers of local productivity, with examples of universities taking innovation from lab to industry sprinkled throughout the paper. Local governments and universities working together toward implementation are incentivised through funding opportunities.
The paper is chocker full (255 pages) of strategies for higher education and industry collaboration. There is a strong acknowledgement of the importance of the local university toward development and increased productivity. The sector is referenced throughout the paper as an avenue for growth in regions throughout the UK, with an emphasis on looking beyond London and the Southeast in order to address uneven economic development.