Innovation, reform and post-Brexit competitiveness

5 October 2016

The Prime Minister has been clear from the start: Brexit means Brexit, and we’re going to make a success of it. But to do that means taking every opportunity to boost both our domestic and global competitiveness and productivity. In particular, it means tackling the assumption that only the private sector does innovation, while the public sector does administration. If we are going to thrive following Brexit, then that must change. We need our public sector to lead the world in pioneering 21st century public services.

That is why the Prime Minister has placed industrial strategy at the heart of the new programme for government. We need our public and private sectors to be the most innovative and entrepreneurial in the world, and for our private and public sectors to work together in a stronger partnership for a more competitive, innovative and united UK. We must use every lever of government to make the UK the innovation capital of the world.

The good news is that we are starting from a position of strength. With the launch of the first ever Life Sciences and Agri-Tech Industrial Strategies in 2011 and 2013, we have already begun this work in the crucial areas of healthcare and agriculture. Using the power of data and technology, we can, for instance, stop prescribing the wrong drugs to the wrong people, and embrace a new world of data-led precision farming. Our Aerospace, Automotive and Digital Strategies are driving UK leadership in key sectors and technologies.

But there is so much further still to go. Whether it is thinking about how technology can revolutionise 21st century higher education, or make politics itself more responsive to the public we are all here to serve, the time for bold thinking is now. The twin opportunities we face of modernising our public services with innovation, and becoming a global exporter of high-value science technology and innovative products, are linked. By pioneering innovation in our own economy we become a global test bed.

The only way we will achieve this is by liberating the best and the brightest in Whitehall to chart a new course for the UK in a post-Brexit landscape. We need to stop thinking of civil servants as bureaucrats. Every civil servant across Whitehall needs to be looking for opportunities to deliver ‘more from less’ and promote improved competitiveness, productivity and innovation if we are going to develop the UKs role as a global crucible of innovation. We all need to be entrepreneurs now.

Only by harnessing all our innovation and enterprise for the national good can we hope to succeed. Together, we can rise to it. We can, we must. We owe it to the next generation.

George Freeman MP, Chair of the Prime Minister’s Policy Board

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