UK Industrial Strategy - The importance of higher education and research

As the UK prepares to leave membership of the European Union, we review the UK Industrial Strategy, which was set out in the Government’s White Paper in November 2017 – Building a Britain fit for the future – and consider the importance of the role played by the UK higher education and research sector.

Launching the Industrial Strategy, Business Secretary Greg Clark said:

“The way we earn and live our lives as workers, citizens and consumers is being transformed by new technologies. The UK is well-placed to benefit from this new industrial revolution and we start from a position of significant strength. We have a thriving research and science base and are home to a wide range of innovative sectors, from advanced manufacturing and life sciences, to fintech and creative industries. The Industrial Strategy is an unashamedly ambitious vision for the future of our country, laying out how we tackle our productivity challenge, earn our way in the future, and improve living standards across the country.”

Four Grand Challenges

In December 2018, a one year review of progress was published – Forging our Future – which reminded us of the Four Grand Challenges set by the Industrial Strategy:

  • Artificial intelligence and data
    • “We will put the UK at the forefront of the AI and data revolution.”
    • Mission: to use data, artificial intelligence and innovation to transform the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of chronic disease by 2030.
  • Clean growth
    • “The move to cleaner economic growth – through low carbon technologies and the efficient use of resources – is one of the greatest industrial opportunities of our time.”
    • Missions:
      • At least halve the energy use of new buildings by 2030.
      • Establish the world’s first net-zero carbon industrial cluster by 2040 and at least one low-carbon cluster by 2030.
  • The future of mobility
    • “We will become a world leader in the way people, goods and services move.”
    • Mission: put the UK at the forefront of the design and manufacturing of zero emission vehicles, with all new cars and vans effectively zero emission by 2040.
  • The ageing society
    • “We will harness the power of innovation to help meet the needs of an ageing society.”
    • Mission: ensure that people can enjoy at least 5 extra healthy, independent years of life by 2035, while narrowing the gap between the experience of the richest and poorest.

Six Sector Deals

To support the Industrial Strategy and the grand challenges, the Government has so far agreed six sector deals in the following areas:

  • Life sciences
  • Automotive
  • Creative industries
  • AI
  • Nuclear
  • Construction

Three more sector deals have been promised as next in line: aerospace; rail; and, food and drink manufacturing.

Each of the sector deals is designed to build on the five foundations, which have been identified as necessary for success: ideas, people, business environment, infrastructure and places.

Batteries and the Faraday Institution

The Forging our Future review of progress highlights a significant project involving the Birmingham Centre for Strategic Elements and Critical Materials (BCSECM) at Birmingham University. This is the Recycling of Lithium-Ion Batteries (ReLiB) project, which is being funded by the Faraday Institution, an independent national battery research institute established following the launch of the UK Industrial Strategy.

The ReLiB project is a collaborative activity between Birmingham University, University of Leicester, University of Newcastle, Cardiff University, University of Liverpool, Oxford Brookes University, University of Edinburgh and 13 industrial partners.

The Faraday Institution is also funding three other significant projects involving consortia on other important aspects of battery research: extending battery life (led by the University of Cambridge), battery system remodelling (led by Imperial College London) and next-generation solid-state batteries (led by Oxford University).

The Faraday Institution has seven founding universities: Oxford University, University College London, Warwick University, Cambridge University, Imperial College London, Newcastle University and Southampton University. Its projects involve 30 industry partners and 20 universities.

Artificial Intelligence and the Turing Institute

Higher Education and Research institutions are to play an integral role in the AI Sector Deal as illustrated by some of the Government commitments set out below.

In terms of “ideas”:

  • £93 million investment from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund into the robotics and AI in extreme environments programme.

In terms of “people”:

  • Support for the prestigious Turing Fellowship programme to attract and retain research talent from around the world.
  • Support for 1,000 PhDs in AI and related disciplines by 2025.

In terms of “infrastructure”:

  • The Alan Turing Institute and the Information Commissioner’s Office to work together to develop guidance to assist in explaining AI decisions.

In terms of “business environment”:

  • A new AI Council to include leading figures from industry and academia to come together with Government to identify opportunities and issues.

In terms of “places”:

  • Support for the Alan Turing Institute’s plans for expansion to become the national academic institute for artificial intelligence and data science.

“As our Industrial Strategy acknowledges, the way we live continues to be transformed by the technological advances of what is a fourth industrial revolution.” – Forging our Future, December 2018


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Every piece of content we create is correct on the date it’s published but please don’t rely on it as legal advice. If you’d like to speak to us about your own legal requirements, please contact one of our expert lawyers.

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