Britain’s leading business association has called for the creation of an independent body to advise on and measure the progress of a new national industrial strategy.
The call comes on the first day of the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) annual conference. A survey published by the CBI revealed that members want a strategy that places people, infrastructure and innovation at its heart.
The CBI links an effective industrial strategy from government with business being able to fully exploit the opportunities in the fourth industrial revolution. The CBI said the opportunities from new technology could reverse the UK’s poor productivity record, raise living standards and produce a fairer society.
Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director general, said that Brexit could not be allowed to distract the country from long-term action needed for industry.
“What’s at stake is the UK’s future in a global economy redefined by artificial intelligence and automation,” she said. “Brexit must not be allowed to crowd this out.
“Firms agree on what matters most: transforming the UK’s skills base, modernising its physical and digital infrastructure, and accelerating innovation. But they also agree that catching up is not enough.”
Fairbairn told The Times this morning that the UK’s industrial strategy has been too long in development. She added that the government’s consultation paper on industrial strategy earlier this year had failed to provide a “clear vision”.
List of recommendations
The CBI has outlined a list of recommendations for government on strategy:
- Build a new style of partnership between government and business, tasked with leapfrog thinking in skills and retraining, infrastructure and innovation;
- Set up a joint commission on artificial intelligence in 2018, involving both business and employee representatives, to better understand the impact on people’s lives, jobs and our future economic growth;
- Deliver on the recommendations as laid out by the industrial digitalisation review, chaired by Siemens’ UK CEO Juergen Maier;
- Establish an independent Industrial Strategy Office – similar to the Office for Budget Responsibility – to measure and monitor performance and give impartial advice on industrial strategy progress;
- Appoint an independent commissioner to ensure all regions of the UK have appropriate levels of devolution to deliver the Industrial Strategy;
- Work across the party spectrum to ensure that strategy sits above political cycles.