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Grand ambition needs investment; COMMENT.

THE UK Government's Industrial Strategy is one of the most hyped documents to be launched by Theresa May's administration and it is easy to imagine Business Secretary Greg Clark feeling a little downcast that its publication has been eclipsed by the announcement of Prince Harry's engagement.

But just as the PM will hope the prospect of a royal wedding will inject some optimism into a country that was told last week just how bad the outlook is for earnings and growth, the Industrial Strategy is a 255-page attempt to make you feel upbeat about Britain's future.

It sets out the ambition that the UK will be the most innovative country in the world by 2030.

In other words, in less than a decade and a half, the globe's innovation hotspot won't be found in the United States, China, South Korea or any of the emerging economic powerhouses. Instead, this country of four nations will outperform the rest of the world.

This optimism is all the bolder for coming at a time when the headlines are filled with warnings about escalating child poverty and crises in social care for the elderly, with other age groups blighted by wage stagnation and chronically bad productivity.

The Business Secretary spies an opportunity for the UK as a wave of epic change sweeps through the global economy. As old ways of working and travelling are swept away, can Britain be the first to perfect new technologies and get them to market? There is no doubting the academic brilliance contained in our universities, and London remains a world capital of finance, but the country has not proved as able as its competitors at turning discoveries into products that consumers around the world demand.

We have a veritable Hogwartsworth of home-grown computer wizards but the west coast of the United States is home to Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon and many other tech giants. These companies employ many of our best and brightest graduates, so how can we give the next generation of visionaries the incentive and the opportunity to take their ideas forward in the UK (and preferably in Wales)? It is welcome that the strategy acknowledges the vital role of innovation in the steel sector and recognises Wales' strength in this area.

The support for strengthened economic links between Wales and English regions is also important and should be backed up with investment.

North Wales will never reach its potential when travel by rail and road is too often grindingly slow. The case for a fast connection to the HS2 hub at Crewe is clear.

Equally, we can only hope that the abolition of the Severn Crossing tolls unlocks dynamic partnerships between our great cities and Bristol. The publication will also spur hopes that growth deals for north and mid Wales will soon be a reality.

If the Government is serious about delivering on its ambitions it must ensure Brexit does not shipwreck aspiration.

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 28, 2017
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