Industrial Strategy – shaping Britain’s global future or a desperate response to Brexit?

“The objective of the modern industrial strategy is to improve living standards and economic growth by increasing productivity and driving growth across the whole country.”

The long awaited Industrial Strategy is out. In Theresa May’s foreword she bills it as a plan to shape the Britain we will have once we leave the EU, rather than a plan for the exit. The strategy covers the areas that are vital for an innovative economy, including research and development, skills, infrastructure, public procurement, boosting start-ups and ensuring growth across the whole of the UK not just the South East.

For the life sciences industry there is much in the plan that are highly relevant and could have a huge impact. In Research and Innovation the strategy rightly points out our strengths in science, research and innovation alongside our world leading Universities. The report also highlights the UK’s weaknesses – the need for more investment and the ability to commercialise research. In response to this the report sets out a number of solutions, including their commitment to an extra £4.7bn in funding.

The strategy acknowledges the role of Government procurement in boosting the economy. In response to this it sets out how they will approach key sectors, including Health. The report outlines the £22bn spent on goods and services by the NHS and that £6bn of that is spent on the procurement of goods. The report reaffirms the strategy of driving more of this procurement through NHS Supply Chain, which they claim will allow the NHS to:

  • “be better aware of the market, improving value by taking advantage of long-term volume deals and horizon scanning for innovative products that the NHS should adopt rapidly;
  • improve the management of our supplier relationships, creating mutually beneficial objectives for suppliers with a substantial stake in both the UK economy and NHS;
  • ensure that there is a strong, UK-based medical supply chain;
  • and create an organisation with potential to be a world player in health procurement and logistics.”

The Industrial Strategy has clearly based their focus for healthcare procurement around ongoing NHS programmes, mainly those that came out of the Carter Review. Reaffirming commitment to driving more procurement through NHS Supply Chain is not an obvious mechanism for supporting the growth of innovative SMEs, many of whom struggle to engage with Supply Chain.

There is a lack of detail as to how the £6bn spent by the NHS will be harnessed to boost the life sciences sector and how this might help change the culture of innovation within the NHS. The report references the Accelerated Access Review but does not state if measures will be taken forward. Questions will be raised as to how supplier relationships will be managed and how mutually beneficial objectives will be developed.

There is a lack of detail and strategic vision as to how the NHS could be improved to deliver gains for industry and patients. The Accelerated Access Review sets out a blue print for how this can be done, however the Industrial Strategy fails to build on this or provide a framework for implementation. For companies dealing with the NHS on a daily basis the climate has never been tougher. Attracting inward investment and supporting SME growth will require the NHS to work with industry and form new working relationships.

On first reading the Industrial Strategy does not appear to set out a bold and imaginative strategy to guide us through Brexit and into a new wave of economic prosperity. Much will depend on implementation and the Government’s mind-set in the future, but as a bold strategy for the shape of our economic future, this feels some way short of compelling.

Dan Jones, Associate Director