SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

BEIS industrial strategy report cites SPRU evidence

Evidence submitted by SPRU researchers has been cited extensively in the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee’s First Review on industrial strategy (published 3 March 2017).

A number of key recommendations in the report have been adopted from joint written evidence (ISG0111) submitted by Professors Jim Watson and Mariana Mazzucato (UCL; Associate Faculty, SPRU), which was presented by Professor Mazzucato as oral evidence in November 2016. In addition, the report cites evidence submitted by Professors Tim Foxon (ISG 32) and Paul Nightingale (ISG 134), who also gave oral evidence to the Science and Technology Select Committee on 22 February 2017.

One of its key recommendations - that industrial policy should be mission-based to address societal problems - is influenced by Professor Mazzucato’s research on mission-oriented innovation policy. In its Summary, the Committee says:

We recommend that the Government reconsider giving sectoral strategies priority and instead focus on horizontal policies and specific ‘missions’ to meet UK-wide and local public policy challenges. This will make clear that the function of the Government’s industrial strategy – and of industry itself – is to solve societal problems and it will provide a clear focus for activity across Government and industry. (p. 3)

Citing SPRU’s joint evidence, the report advocates a mission-based approach in contrast to sectoral strategies or picking winners, both of which risk government implementing a strategy that is too strongly influenced by the views of the strongest and most organised industry lobbies:

Past UK industrial strategies have tended to default towards a sectoral approach. There are good reasons for this, as sectors offer a good organizing basis for solving coordination problems related to, for example, skills. But there are also risks to a sectoral approach, such as capture to private lobbying interests [ … ] This is where instead of driving to the frontier of new ideas, firms influence governmental programmes and policy making. Starting with problems, not sectors, helps to minimise this problem. (SPRU written evidence, quoted on p.24)

It recommends that “a mission-based approach provides a means of articulating a positive economic vision and picking public policy challenges and allowing all sectors to put forward contributions to solving these” (p. 58).

Additionally, Professor Nightingale is cited:

Industrial strategy is [ … ] not about goals, objectives or picking winners. Nor is it rebranded industrial policy. Instead it involves diagnosing problems, a process of analysing and choosing an appropriate set of policies that reinforce each other (within a given context), to deliver desired objectives. (p. 16)

On Professor Mazzucato’s oral evidence, the report adds:

We heard evidence that a mission-based approach could help build the broad-based support necessary for a long-term industrial strategy by recognising that economic growth has a “direction” as well as a “rate” and seeking to harness this towards societal outcomes. (p.25)

Stating “this challenge and the benefits of a mission-based approach were summarised particularly clearly in evidence from the University of Sussex Science Policy Research Unit”, the Committee report elaborates that such a strategy has been “warmly endorsed by the British Chambers of Commerce” and “backed by the Government’s own innovation agency, Innovate UK”.

The written evidence was submitted by SPRU (Professors Watson and Mazzucato), Professor Nightingale (individual submission), and Tim Foxon (as part of ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (CCCEP)), in response to the BEIS committee’s inquiry into industrial strategy (3 October 2016).

Further information

Read the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee’s report ‘Industrial Strategy: First Review’.

Read more about SPRU Professors' work influencing discussions on industrial strategy.

Read the joint written evidence submitted by Professors Watson and Mazzucato and watch a recording of the BEIS committee oral evidence session on 22 November 2016.

Read the evidence submitted by Professor Nightingale and Professor Foxon.

Professor Mazzucato remains associated with SPRU but has now moved to UCL to establish a new Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP). Read about her collaborative project with the RSA on Mission-Oriented Innovation Policy.