Getting a robotic hand to achieve life-like dexterity is no mean feat of engineering – but when it’s created by 3D printing technology, it’s something else.
Likewise, running trials of autonomous 'pod' vehicles for quick and easy personal transport.
Such projects are in the vanguard of the fourth industrial revolution, but the brains behind them were more self-effacing when describing their work to the Duke of Cambridge at the International Business Festival in Liverpool a few weeks ago.
The Prime Minister recently spoke of the importance of such innovators in a landmark speech yards from the vast, iconic telescope at the Jodrell Bank research centre in Cheshire.
It was about the Government’s modern industrial strategy – how it’s backing business to create good jobs and increase the earning power of people throughout the UK with investment in skills, industries and infrastructure. And the PM’s focus was on investing in research and how it’s developed to keep the UK at the forefront of the industries of the future.
Central to the industrial strategy are four 'grand challenges' – harnessing the power of AI and data, delivering economic growth while reducing carbon emissions, travel in the future, and how society adapts to the impact of an ageing population.
These are areas identified by experts as of enormous potential for the UK economy. From genomics and synthetic biology to robotics and satellites, the country is already a global leader in some of the defining technologies of the next decade – and the industrial strategy needs to ensure we build on these strengths.
A glance at the Government’s recently published annual communication plan underlines the importance of the industrial strategy as a plan looking beyond the Brexit process.
It is central to many programmes of engagement, advocacy and behaviour change – from improving uptake of technical education to increasing exports and investment opportunities through the Government’s GREAT campaign.
What’s more, communication isn’t just supporting delivery of the industrial strategy – it’s also an industry supported by it.
Recent 'sector deals' – partnerships between government and industry on sector-specific initiatives – have included one for the creative industries, led by Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s UK boss. It includes support for businesses in areas outside London, investor and best-practice roadshows, and an industry programme to provide mentoring and advice on finance, marketing, exporting and intellectual property.
The strategy must fix the essentials, such as extending our infrastructure with better transport and digital networks.
It must ensure we have the right regulation, modern employment standards and effective corporate governance rules.
And it must provide the foundations for researchers to do what only they can do: generate and develop the great ideas, products and services that create jobs and drive the economy.
Sam Lister is director of Industrial Strategy at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and its former director of comms
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