Sponsored column: An industrial strategy is vital to help regenerate the economy in the North

Ian Greenwood of Leeds University Business School
Ian Greenwood of Leeds University Business School
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When the Government’s Industrial Strategy White Paper was released last November, the response was mixed

Many felt it was a step in the right direction, but there were concern that it didn’t really address the scale of the challenges facing the economy. Others questioned the very notion of an

industrial strategy, claiming that the economy operates best when the private sector is left alone. It’s clear to me that the State should have a role in supporting the economy and that the market doesn’t always know best. Decades of under investment in certain sectors of the economy and the decimation of industries and hence industrial communities in parts of the country demonstrate why an element of Government coordination of the economy is needed.

An industrial strategy is particularly important to the North. In April 2018, the Office for National Statistics reported that in the three months to the end of February 2018, Yorkshire and the Humber had the highest unemployment rate in the UK. At 5.2%, it’s much higher than the 3.4% seen in the South East and South West. Some form of targeted intervention in the North is needed to help generate employment, skills and infrastructure. An industrial strategy is a step towards this.

Leeds University Business School (LUBS) is holding a one day free event in Leeds on 11 May which will look at what the strategy means for jobs and skills for the Region, and what can be done to shape it. We will be welcoming politicians and representatives from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) as well as experts from business, trade unions and industrial regeneration.

An impressive list of speakers includes Hilary Benn, MP for Central Leeds, Peter Box, Leader of Wakefield Council, and a representative from the West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce.

The event is one of LUBS, ‘Ideas in Practice’ series and is open to politicians, policymakers, business leaders, trade union representatives, academics, indeed all with an interest in regional development and industrial strategy. The event is free, although places are limited hence registration is advisable. Details of the event are here: https://business.leeds.ac.uk/about-us/article/ideas- in-practice- symposium-1/

The White Paper sets out five ‘foundations’ – ideas, infrastructure, people, business environment and places – which the Government believes will boost earnings power and productivity. Our event will have a particular focus on the ‘people’ foundation. I am particularly interested in how an industrial strategy connects with the human side of enterprise and what can be done to support people in lower- skilled jobs.

By bringing together people from some of the anchor institutions in the region, we will debate how the industrial strategy can be developed so that it is in the interest of both the industry

and people of our region and the national economy.

The symposium will also consider the impact that technology is having on work. Andy Haldane, the Bank of England’s Chief Economist, warned in 2015 that as many as 15 million UK jobs could be lost as robots undertake roles previously carried out by people. To put this in context, this is roughly half of the UK’s current workforce. The country needs to think about the types of work that will exist for people in the coming decades. Which sectors are more likely to support jobs in the future?

The debate will be informed by the world-class interdisciplinary research undertaken at LUBS, which will be of use to politicians and business leaders when they are considering how to respond to the industrial strategy.

The White Paper sets out the Government’s proposals for future legislation, but it still needs to make its way through Parliament. There‘s still time to shape it for the region.