We are at one of the most important, exciting and challenging times in history. Powered by new technologies, the way we live our lives as workers, citizens and consumers is being transformed across the world.
I believe the UK is uniquely placed to benefit from this new industrial revolution. In the latest global innovation rankings, compiled by Cornell University and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the UK is the fifth most innovative country in the world, ranking above Germany, Japan and South Korea.
We are a nation of innovators, with an open economy and some of the most brilliant minds and pioneering companies found anywhere in the world - but we can’t stand still.
To keep the UK competitive and leading the world we need to persistently improve and prepare our economy for the future. That’s why, back in November, I outlined how our modern Industrial Strategy will build on our unique strengths and make Britain fit for the future. Drawing on input from over 2,000 organisations, we set out a long-term vision to help business to raise productivity and earning power, create better paid jobs and put our country at the very forefront of the industries and jobs of the future.
We have made huge progress since the Industrial Strategy was published last November. Investing in our future with the biggest increase in public R&D funding for 40 years, ensuring that public spending on R&D will rise in every year to around £12.5 billion in 2021/22. Investing in skills – especially in STEM and technical education to ensure we have the people with the right skills to take advantage of the industries and jobs of the future. Investing in our infrastructure, supporting investments in housing, next generation of electric and autonomous transport and upgrading our digital infrastructure.
Working with industry on transformative sector deals, these two-way deals we’ve agreed with sectors involve government working with industry to help them grow, invest and reach their potential. Deals, bringing together government, leading institutions and UK and international businesses have already been announced with our world-leading life sciences, Artificial Intelligence, automotive and creative industries sectors.
But we need to look ahead, to the areas where the UK can lead the world in the technologies, products and services of the future. Central to delivering this are the Industrial Strategy’s Grand Challenges: areas of societal and global importance where we believe UK technology and innovation can help solve some of the most pressing problems facing the world.
We set out four areas where Britain can lead the global technological revolution: artificial intelligence and the data driven economy; clean growth – to maximise the green and sustainable technology revolution; the future of mobility and meeting the needs of an ageing society. We are prioritising our resources and aligning our efforts across government and across industry, to build on our strengths and place the UK in the vanguard of these changes transforming the world today.
There are huge market opportunities here for us to grasp. But to achieve our potential we must do things differently.
We must think big and be willing to set ourselves missions that will inspire and energise everyone, both public and private, and bring different sectors together to interact to tackle and solve these big global challenges and opportunities. By setting a clear direction now we can draw in investment and accelerate innovation to achieve a common goal. By taking on the toughest problems, we can bring together the best UK minds and enterprise to achieve things we didn’t dream were possible.
That is why, as part of our modern Industrial Strategy, the Prime Minister yesterday outlined the first four missions under our Grand Challenges in areas where there is great potential to improve people’s lives, create new markets and industrial opportunities, and help change our country for the better.
As part of our Ageing Society Grand Challenge we are making it our mission to ensure that people can enjoy at least five extra healthy, independent years of life by 2035 whilst narrowing the gap between the experience of the richest and poorest.
Under our Artificial Intelligence and Data Revolution Grand Challenge, we will set out our aim to lead the world in the use of health data and artificial intelligence to improve diagnosis and treatment of chronic diseases by 2030.
The Prime Minister also set out our first mission under the Clean Growth Grand Challenge to build on the UK’s leading position in the transition to a low-carbon economy by at least halving the energy use of new buildings by 2030.
And our Future of Mobility Grand Challenge will be supported by its first mission to 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.
From investing in the foundations of productivity growth, concluding landmark sector deals with a range of industries, setting out ground breaking missions which will transform not only our economy but people’s lives for the better – we are building the base so the UK can lead the next industrial revolution.
But as the Prime Minister set out – for our Industrial Strategy to really succeed we need every sector, every region and every business to take this Strategy and make it their own and help build a Britain which is truly fit for the future.
Greg Clark is the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary, and Conservative MP for Tunbridge Wells