Public Services > Central Government

Revised Industrial Strategy targets data and digital infrastructure overhaul

Neil Merrett Published 23 January 2017

Green paper seeks to flesh out aims to support UK industry with focuses including smarter government data use; opposition questions lack of employee-focused considerations


The government has outlined the foundations of a new Industrial Strategy with an eye on life outside of the EU that includes focuses on digital and data infrastructure, 5G mobile networks, artificial intelligence and smart energy technologies.

In an attempt to expand job creation through higher paid, higher skills jobs across the UK, a new green paper has been published detailing aims for sector specific plans in areas such as life sciences, the digital transformation of industry and improved connectivity. 

The paper also highlights a need for setting out how to ensure smarter use of government data, which falls broadly in line with some of the aims of the delayed Whitehall digital strategy and the Digital Economy bill that is currently under consideration.

“As well as physical and digital infrastructure, we need to make sure that we also have in place an effective data infrastructure. This means the right elements for an economy in which open data drives growth, efficiency and innovation,” said the document.

“This includes secure services that allow individuals and organisations to prove who they are online – for example, the GOV.UK Verify service, which gives people safer, simpler and faster access to government services like filing their tax or checking the information on their driving licence.”

Among details within the green paper, which is published to generate wider debate and planning around government proposals, ten strategic pillars are set out with a view to ensure improved industrial competitiveness. 

These pillars include the development of digital skills alongside ensuring a working knowledge of numeracy and science, especially for school leavers not pursuing university education.  Other pillars focus on upgraded infrastructure plans, which include communication and transportation functions, as well as redefining how central government investment can be better aligned with local and regional priorities.

Procurement improvements were also highlighted as a major focus to enable development of UK supply chains.

Other pillars of the strategy include:

  • Investment in science, research and innovation
  • Ensuring sufficient support for UK businesses to launch or expand their operations
  • Encouraging trade and inward investment
  • Ensuring “affordable energy and clean growth”
  • Setting out plans to build on particular strengths or skills available in specific regions, or tackling factors that may hold back growth
  • Building on areas of existing competitive advantage
  • Reviewing existing structures and institutions both in the public and private sectors to better support individuals and industry

Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said that businesses and workers were now being invited to contribute to the development and fleshing out of the Industrial Strategy going forward.

Responding to the green paper, Federation of Small Businesses national chairman Mike Cherry welcomed the opportunity to be involved in an economic blueprint focused on defining skills, infrastructure and connectivity needs in the UK.

“The moves towards a place-based strategy fit well with the UK small business community. Small firms are often the anchors in our local economies – in cities, towns and villages – right across the country. Finally, we want to continue to see an emphasis on supply chain respect, which underpins the Industrial Strategy,” he said.

Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said the paper served as a crucial first step in developing a new strategy for how government and businesses can partner together for future growth.

“A deliberate and steady approach that leads to long-term change is the right way to go,” he said. 

Responding via social media, Labour MP Chi Onwurah, who serves as the shadow minister for industrial strategy, argued there was a complete lack of scope in the government’s strategy around security of employment, childcare and diversity. 

Related articles:

Hammond signals government commitment to R&D and innovation

Tech specialists warn of digital ‘missed opportunity” in Autumn Statement

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