The Royal Academy of Engineering welcomes the government’s nationwide consultation on industrial strategy, hailing the plans as a major opportunity to reinvigorate the engineering and manufacturing sectors to benefit the whole country.

In the consultation, announced by the Prime Minister today, the government is seeking views on its modern industrial strategy designed to “deliver a high-skilled, competitive economy that benefits people throughout the UK.” The proposals are shaped around ten ‘pillars’ that include investing in research and innovation, upgrading infrastructure, encouraging trade and inward investment and building a proper system of technical education.

The strategy recognises the critical role that engineering plays in stimulating economic growth and supporting communities, and makes a firm commitment to addressing the engineering skills shortage.

Responding to the green paper announcement, Professor Dame Ann Dowling OM DBE FREng FRS, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, commented:

“I welcome the government’s consultation on a new industrial strategy published today. It provides an opportunity for UK industry, local areas and universities to join together with government to make the UK a great place to found or grow a business. The plans proposed have real potential to benefit the whole country, not just the South East of England. Properly implemented and resourced, they will provide a major opportunity to reinvigorate the UK’s position as a global leader in the innovative engineering and manufacturing that form the backbone of our economy and account for some 50% of our exports by value.

“The strategy will also help to accelerate the growth of emerging engineering technologies and scientific advances that originate from the world-class research and development undertaken in our universities. Advances in areas such as robotics and artificial intelligence, energy technologies, manufacturing processes and materials, and healthcare are set to impact on both society and the economy in the years to come. But we will only be able to make the most of these opportunities if there is also investment in the skills that employers need.  The government’s industrial strategy will be critical in delivering that step change in our skills base.

“The renewed focus and investment in infrastructure and digital connectivity is a vital part of implementing a truly effective industrial strategy, and I welcome the emphasis on this in today’s green paper. Better transport links and communication will enable businesses and their supply chains to be more competitive and have the added advantage of being beneficial to local communities.

“I am pleased to see that a cross-government approach is being taken to industrial strategy, bringing together the various levers the government has – from procurement to education – in support of growing our economy.”

The government’s proposals also announced the commissioning of new independent research into the different approaches to commercialisation taken by academic institutions. The Academy has previously submitted evidence to Parliament on this area of interest. Commenting specifically on these plans, Dame Ann said:

“Some of the UK’s most innovative new companies are university spin-outs, and I am pleased to see the government direct attention to supporting these businesses through their initial stages. For a company to grow and flourish it is vital that it receives the right investment early on. By exploring the impact of different commercialisation approaches, including the varying size of equity stakes taken by institutions, I hope that the government can provide valuable ‘best practice’ guidance to university technology transfer offices as they launch the successful new enterprises of the future.”

In response to plans to invest in innovation and support entrepreneurs as part of the strategy, Ian Shott CBE FREng, Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Enterprise Committee, said:

“The inclusion of support for businesses to start and grow as one of the ten core pillars of the government’s industrial strategy, and the appointment of a Scale-up Champion and a Chief Entrepreneurial Adviser, is welcome news. The UK has a long history of excellent innovation, an active start-up culture, and world-class research ripe for commercialisation, but too often promising entrepreneurs become victims of the ‘valley of death’, that is, the high probability that a start-up firm will die off before a steady stream of revenue is established, and lack the support for scaling up that they need. 

“An injection of investment to help bridge this gap for start-up companies right across the UK has the potential to drive up productivity and put the UK at the forefront of developing emerging technologies, an objective that the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Enterprise Hub shares. I have personally seen the transformative power of the financial support provided by the Hub to the UK’s most promising engineering entrepreneurs, as well as the impact of bespoke mentoring provided by our Fellows, who lend their past experience to the development of new businesses. A government commitment to develop policies that grow this kind of support is a really positive step forward. As we expand our own reach and investment in the engineering and start-up community with a brand new space for Hub members and mentors from across the country, I am excited by the prospect of engaging with the government and partner organisations to accelerate and amplify the success of engineering entrepreneurs across the country.”

Welcoming the government’s commitment to reshape technical education in the UK, Dr Rhys Morgan, Director of Engineering and Education at the Royal Academy of Engineering, commented:

“The government’s consultation document recognises that to grow world-leading industries we need to train many more people with world-class technical skills. We are pleased to see the new industrial strategy includes a commitment to make Britain the best place in the world to study science and engineering and address the well-documented shortage of skills that we have.

“Addressing the skills shortage cannot be solved with a one-size-fits-all or short-term approach. We welcome the government’s dedication to develop a new high quality system of technical education, which will include a number of different routes to train young people from all backgrounds with the skills required for our growing industries. We’re committed to seeing an inclusive industry that harnesses the talent of every section of society - such a diverse and successful workforce can only be built with the provision of the right education and training options. The £170million investment in new Institutes of Technology is very welcome news as a commitment with long-term benefits. By taking a joined-up approach with the wider industrial strategy, and involving excellent teachers and industry specialists, these centres can provide precisely the specialist skills needed by our growing industries.

“Excellent training in secondary schools and specialist colleges around the country must be matched by a boost for careers guidance and information to help inform students about the options available to them – particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. We look forward to seeing the government’s forthcoming careers strategy as we continue to develop our own Engineering Talent Project - a coordinated initiative across the sector to address the shortfall of engineers and skilled technicians that the UK faces every year.”

The Prime Minister is also to appoint industry champions for areas deemed to offer strong growth prospects. Those announced so far include Academy Fellows Richard Parry-Jones CBE FREng for ultra-low emission vehicles and Professor Sir John Bell GBE HonFREng FRS FMedSci for life sciences. Other industries to be championed include industrial digitisation, nuclear energy and the creative sector.

Notes for editors

  1. The ‘ten pillars’ of the modern industrial strategy proposed by the Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy are:
    - Investing in science, research and innovation
    - Upgrading infrastructure
    - Improving procurement
    - Delivering affordable energy and clean growth
    - Driving growth across the whole country
    - Developing skills
    - Supporting businesses to start and grow
    - Encouraging trade and inward investment
    - Cultivating world-leading sectors
    - Creating the right local institutions

    Full details are available in the green paper, ‘Building our Industrial Strategy’, available online:
    gov.uk: Developing a modern industrial strategy
  2. Royal Academy of Engineering. As the UK’s national academy for engineering, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers for a shared purpose: to advance and promote excellence in engineering. We provide analysis and policy support to promote the UK’s role as a great place to do business. We take a lead on engineering education and we invest in the UK’s world-class research base to underpin innovation. We work to improve public awareness and understanding of engineering. We are a national academy with a global outlook.

    We have four strategic challenges:
    - Make the UK the leading nation for engineering innovation
    - Address the engineering skills crisis
    - Position engineering at the heart of society
    - Lead the profession

For more information please contact:

Aaron Boardley at the Royal Academy of Engineering
T: 020 7766 0655
E: Aaron Boardley