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Call for national productivity targets to ‘level up’ manufacturing

The government should set a national productivity target for manufacturing growth in England and introduce a business support programme to encourage the uptake of industrial digital technologies (IDTs), a new report recommends. The Industrial Strategy Council should be put on a statutory footing to help achieve this, it adds.

The document Level Up Industry was published by the Manufacturing Commission, which is the research arm of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Manufacturing, run by think tank Policy Connect.

It highlights the increasing prevalence of technology and disruptive new techniques in the sector and sets out seven recommendations for the government to enable growth in manufacturing and boost productivity.

The first is to establish a national productivity target for industrial growth, which would need to be measurable and should be overseen by a statutory body.

“The Climate Change Committee and the UK’s emissions reduction target has been instrumental in giving the UK a leading role in driving consistent climate change action,” says Manufacturing Commission chair Lord Bilimoria in the report’s foreword.

“We believe this model would work well for manufacturing – with a body based in statute to keep a relentless focus on strategic targets – coupled with a long horizon and new powers devolved to areas of regional collaboration to enable increased co-operation.”

The report recommends putting the Industrial Strategy Council on a statutory footing to achieve this. The council, comprising individuals from business, academia and wider society, was set up under the previous government. Its remit includes reviewing the impact of the government’s industrial strategy and its contribution to UK economic growth.

The report urges Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and regional bodies to be given the funding and tools needed to engage with businesses on shaping local policymaking.

A further recommendation is to maximise the return on the increasing research and development spending by mapping existing regional capabilities and seeking to create a long term innovation network, bringing together government agencies, Catapults, universities and businesses.

“As we drive towards 2.4% of GDP and beyond, we must ensure that this is spent as wisely as possible to enable innovation and growth across the whole country,” wrote Lord Bilimoria.

The document calls for the establishment of a nationally available business support programme to encourage the uptake of digital technology, particularly for small and medium companies, backed by investment in high speed broadband and 5G infrastructure.

Supply and demand in job opportunities and skills provision is currently mismatched, the report highlights, and urges a better process to match learner aspiration to business need.

An additional recommendation is that the planned UK Shared Prosperity Fund should provide a single, flexible resource to allow regions to direct funding in line with their Local Industrial Strategies.

www.policyconnect.org.uk/apmg/research/level-industry https://www.policyconnect.org.uk/apmg/sites/site_apmg/files/report/2823/fieldreportdownload/levelupindustry.pdf