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1 year on and Industrial Strategy has seen progress, but fresh impetus needed

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In a speech to business leaders in the Tees Valley, John Allan, CBI President, sets out why the Government’s Industrial Strategy must deliver.

Speaking at Crathorne Hall, John Allan argues that after real progress in its first year, the Industrial Strategy must now pick up the pace to help drive up living standards and lessen regional inequalities in the years ahead, by improving the region’s productivity performance.

On the need for fresh impetus on the Industrial Strategy, John Allan said:

“A year on, and we have made progress in delivering the long-term vision and strategy that this region needs. But with just over 100 days to Brexit now, more than ever, we need a renewed pace and fresh impetus from government.”

On the prospect of a Tees Valley agreement in 2019, John said:

“We know that this year the Tees Valley was announced as one of five areas across England which will form part of the second wave of local Industrial Strategy trailblazers. It’s good news for the region.

“But, again, what this means in practice is that we need a renewed impetus from business and government to really bring local plans to life.

“We must agree a strong Tees Valley local Industrial Strategy by 2019 along with strategies across the entirety of the North East.”

On the potential of the North East, John said:

“This region – from the waters of the Tees to the banks of the Wear and the Tyne – can put the principles of the Industrial Strategy to work. And use it to grow as a place of world-class innovation, skills, and infrastructure. The North East can benefit from not millions but billions of pounds of growth over the next few years.”

On regional inequality in the UK, he said:

“Huge disparities remain across the UK. The most productive area of the country is now almost three times more productive than the least. And here in the North East the local economy is half as productive of London and the South.

“Not through a lack of effort, expertise or enterprise, but for structural reasons. A lack of investment in infrastructure, skills, and R&D. It means that, compared to London and the South East, this region is having to drive uphill.

“It isn’t just a problem for the Tees Valley. It’s a problem for our whole country outside London. “When it comes to productivity, nine out of 10 UK cities outside London perform well below the European average. These are sobering statistics.

“The CBI’s research is clear. If we were to raise productivity levels in this region it could boost the economy by up to £1.5 billion for the Tees Valley alone.

This isn’t just an abstract number. But more jobs for young people bigger numbers on pay-cheques at the end of the month, faster transport links for those commuting to work and more investment in R&D and innovation.

“Because if you boil the concept of Industrial Strategy down to its essence, it is the simple idea that governments and businesses can plan for the long-term. The idea that investment in certain industries, sectors, and indeed places can act as anchors and accelerators for a region’s economy, triggering further investment and gains in productivity.

And that’s something the Tees Valley has long been good at. A place where a few key industries and businesses have been instrumental to the region.”

What next for business?

“At the CBI we are supportive of the industrial strategy. In places, it’s already working well. But in many other places, in could work much better. And a year on, I’d like to give government – local and regional the business view on what we must do now.

“First – we still need that concise and compelling vision for the coming years. A set of specific, tangible outcomes the industrial strategy must deliver in each region. With a measurable deadline – say 2030 – against which we can test success.

“But second, we need greater collaboration. Across all government departments, regions, and local authorities.”

Professor Jane Turner OBE, Professor of Enterprise and Pro-Vice Chancellor (Enterprise & Business Engagement), Teesside University:

“Teesside University has a significant role to play in the prosperity of the region. We have a well-established reputation for our engagement with business and both the Industrial Strategy and the development for the Local Industrial Strategy enable us to play to our strengths, align our energy and efforts with the relevant Grand Challenges and support business to embrace R&D, innovation and develop the requisite skills and mindsets to enable greater productivity. We are also very keen to collaborate to ensure greater influence and impact.”

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