The government has pledged that it will develop an industrial strategy. Now it is trying to decide exactly what that means and how best to do it. Crafting an industrial strategy is tricky at the best of times, but in the UK the process is complicated by history. Whatever strategy is chosen needs not only to avoid the mistakes of the 1960s and 70s – which is widely associated with economic stagnation – but also to differentiate itself from the policies of 2010-2015 – which is seen to have done too little to combat the regional and sectoral imbalances that exist in Britain today.
This article is an attempt to set out principles for a successful industrial strategy, together with some specific policies to achieve them. It begins by asking what went wrong with previous UK industrial strategies, both explicit and implicit – with a particular focus on the past six years. It then sets out general principles for what an industrial strategy should seek to achieve.
Finally it sets out four specific things government needs to do differently, together with policy ideas to help achieve them.