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PA OPINION

Aligning local industrial strategies nationally

When the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) first published the National Industrial Strategy (NIS) in 2017, it was clearly an ambitious plan to build the economy from the bottom up. Local Industrial Strategies (LISs) would build on unique local strengths to ensure every community reaches its economic potential.

But how do you align LISs and ensure they’re consistent, so they collectively deliver the National Industrial Strategy?

BEIS could do this by developing a portfolio view of LISs. This would monitor how they align and collectively deliver the NIS, ensure consistency in the review and scrutiny of local plans, and support collaboration across regions.

Local Industrial Strategies should deliver the National Strategy

There’s a need to ensure LISs are tackling the grand challenges and addressing the five foundations established in the National Strategy – ideas, people, infrastructure, business environment and place. Local strategies need to do this in a way that minimises gaps while managing overlaps to effectively deliver the National Strategy.

For example, when we worked with one local region, we delivered an evidence-based approach to defining opportunities for growth by mapping their value and supply chain, focusing on the five foundations of productivity. This ensured that all opportunities linked back to the National Strategy.

And in our current work with the cross-government Prosperity Fund, we’re helping 27 international programmes define what they want to achieve and how this will contribute to the Fund’s overall objectives. This experience has proven how tools such as a Theory of Change (a description of a sequence of events that’s expected to lead to a desired outcome) and Logframe (a matrix planning tool that gives an overview of a project's goal, activities and anticipated results) provide a framework to identify short, medium and long-term objectives as well as the logic linking them.

Developing a National Industrial Strategy Theory of Change could provide the framework and clarity for LISs to feed into and ensure they continue to align with national objectives. Our experience in the Prosperity Fund proved this can be a challenging task, but one that yields positive results if implemented coherently and effectively.

Implement a consistent way of reviewing Local Industrial Strategies

The NIS provides a policy framework for making major private and public sector investment decisions. But priorities will vary across the country. They might include ambitions to capitalise on land supply, propel housing growth, or improve skills locally. A consistent approach to scrutinising and reviewing LISs across local economies, and not just within each economy, needs to be in place to ensure LISs complement each other.

Portfolio management approaches can support this. And that means investing in a portfolio management team and their development. The portfolio management team can then ensure a systematic monitoring and evaluation framework is in place across all LISs.

Developing a portfolio management office within BEIS’s Industrial Strategy teams, dedicated to overseeing and providing guidance to LISs, will ensure a consistent approach to delivering their strategies but requires careful balancing of differentiation. This needs the support of the right approaches and technologies to enable data gathering and analysis that support monitoring and reporting outcomes and delivers value for money.

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Support collaboration across regions

LISs provide an opportunity for Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and Combined Authorities (CAs) to engage and involve businesses in developing a shared vision for the long-term. To achieve this, LISs will need to be a product of extensive consultation with businesses, a broad range of public partners and the civil society sector, not just within their regions but across regions.

Where assets, opportunities and challenges extend beyond their geographies, LEPs and CAs should collaborate across those boundaries to maximise growth through initiatives such as the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine. They should set out where and how places can best work with Government to address shared priorities. This could include drawing on the lessons of policy evaluation, such as the What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth and their recent work around LISs.

Creating cross regional centres of excellence that bring together business, government and civil society can be an effective way of fostering this collaboration. Our experience of bringing together industry, government and civil society in the Middle East to support SMEs scale internationally has been a testament to the great achievements cross-collaboration can bring, but also the challenges that need to be addressed along the way.

BEIS can support LISs as they achieve their ambition to build on local strengths, but it will need to develop an effective portfolio view to ensure they deliver against the NIS. Implementing a portfolio management office within BEIS’s Industrial Strategy teams, using evidence-based approaches that link to the National Strategy and implementing a systematic monitoring and reporting approach can support this outcome. This, combined with coordinating across different stakeholder organisations, related policy areas and UK businesses, will reap the benefits of building a strong economy from the bottom up.

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