Industrial Strategy: What three UK political parties are saying

17 June 2024 | Muriel Cozier

‘Industrial Strategy’ featured in the manifestos released by two of the three main UK political parties vying for votes at the upcoming UK general election on 4th July.

Both the Liberal Democrats and Labour parties have highlighted their commitment to an industrial strategy, a move that SCI has been calling for since 2023 in its Manifesto for an Industrial Science and Innovation Strategy.

The Labour manifesto stated that the party will introduce a new industrial strategy. ‘We will work in partnership with industry to seize opportunities and remove barriers to growth. Critically we will end short-term policy making with the establishment of an Industrial Strategy Council, on a statutory footing, to provide expert advice. We will ensure representation on the Council from all nations and regions, business and trade unions, to drive economic growth in all parts of the country.’ the manifesto said.

Similarly, the Liberal Democrats manifesto said that they would launch an ambitious industrial strategy to create stability. ‘We will develop an industrial strategy that will give businesses certainty and incentivise them to invest in new technologies to grow the economy, create good jobs and tackle the climate crisis.’ As with the Labour party the Liberal Democrats would also establish an Industrial Strategy Council. ‘We will re-establish the Industrial Strategy Council and put it on a statutory footing, to ensure vital oversight, monitoring and evaluation of the industrial strategy for the long-term,’ the manifesto stated.

While the Conservative party manifesto made no specific mention of an ‘industrial strategy’, there was comment on moving forward on its Advanced Manufacturing plan with a £4.5 billion commitment to ‘secure strategic manufacturing sectors including automotive, aerospace, life science and clean energy.’ In addition, there is a plan to build on the success of the nine speciality catapults. ‘Over the last 14 years the Conservatives have turned the UK into a science and innovation superpower. The UK now has the highest level of direct government funding and tax support for business research and development of any country in the OECD,’ the Conservative manifesto asserted.

In the area of R&D the Liberal Democrats said that they will ‘support science, research and innovation particularly among small businesses and startups in universities and in net-zero carbon, environmental and medical technologies.’ This would be achieved by continuing to participate in Horizon Europe and joining the European Innovation Council as well as ‘aiming for at least 3% of GDP to be invested in R&D by 2030, rising to 3.5% by 2034.’

The Conservative party said that it would increase public spending on R&D to £22 billion each year, up from £20 billion in 2024 and it would also maintain R&D tax relief and continue investing £1.5 billion in large-scale computer clusters to take advantage of AI.

Meanwhile a National Wealth Fund valued at £7.3 billion, promised by the Labour party, will provide £1.5 billion of funding for new gigafactories, £1 billion to accelerate the deployment of carbon capture and £500 million to support the manufacture of green hydrogen. Funding would also be made available to ‘rebuild’ the steel industry, as well as upgrading ports and building supply chains across the UK. The Labour party added that the fund will seek to attract three pounds of private investment for every one pound of public investment.

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