Government’s Industrial Strategy wedded to AI and tech

Business Secretary Greg Clark has launched the government’s Industrial Strategy, setting out a long-term vision for how Britain can embrace technological change and boost the earning power of people across the UK.

In the strategy, the government has identified Four Grand Challenges; global trends that will shape our rapidly changing future and which the UK must embrace to ensure we harness all the opportunities they bring. The four, which will have an impact on central and local government services, are:

  • artificial intelligence – to put the UK at the forefront of the artificial intelligence and data revolution
  • clean growth – maximising the advantages for UK industry from the global shift to clean growth
  • ageing society – to harness the power of innovation to help meet the needs of an ageing society
  • future of mobility – helping the UK to become a world leader in the way people, goods and services move

Each Grand Challenge represents an open invitation to business, academia and civil society to work and engage with the government to innovate, develop new technologies and ensure the UK seizes these global opportunities.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “The way we earn and live our lives as workers, citizens and consumers is being transformed by new technologies. The UK is well-placed to benefit from this new industrial revolution and we start from a position of significant strength. We have a thriving research and science base and are home to a wide range of innovative sectors, from advanced manufacturing and life sciences, to fintech and creative industries.

“The Industrial Strategy is an unashamedly ambitious vision for the future of our country, laying out how we tackle our productivity challenge, earn our way in the future, and improve living standards across the country.”

Further announcements of note from the stratgey, which can be read in full here, include:

  • Moves to boost digital infrastructure with over £1 billion of public investment, including £176 million for 5G and £200 million for local areas to encourage roll out of full-fibre networks
  • Support electric vehicles through £400 million charging infrastructure investment and an extra £100 million to extend the plug-in car grant
  • Increase the National Productivity Investment Fund to £31 billion, supporting investments in transport, housing and digital infrastructure
  • Invest an additional £406 million in maths, digital and technical education, helping to address the shortage of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills
  • Create a new transforming cities fund that will provide £1.7 billion for intra-city transport; this will fund projects that drive productivity by improving connections within city regions

Commenting on the launch of the Government’s Industrial Strategy White Paper, techUK Deputy CEO, Antony Walker, said: “This is an industrial strategy with digital technology at its very core. The Government is right to stress that the success of every industrial sector and every business in the UK will depend upon their approach to digital innovation. Digital tech is the golden thread that runs throughout the White Paper including every sector deal.

“techUK strongly welcomes the new sector deal for AI. The UK is an acknowledged world leader in AI but needs to work hard to stay at the forefront of a technology that will shape the future for everyone. The commitment to opening up UK data to make us the best understood economy in the world is truly transformational, as is the Ministerial Review of Govtech that can help transform our public services including health and social care.

“There is still plenty to do, including supporting those millions of small businesses not yet taking advantage of basic tech. Companies can’t take advantage of AI until they have built their basic digital foundations – we would like to see a digital readiness index to measure progress in building these foundations. However, this White Paper shows a clear commitment from Government to prepare for and embrace the future. Given the challenges that lie ahead for the UK economy post-Brexit, there is a clear need to commit to the long-term. This White Paper is a great start.”

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