Business secretary Vince Cable today outlined his vision for British industry, including plans for a business bank to help companies invest in capital and drive their expansion.

He outlined his plans in a speech to business leaders and committed to a long-term, strategic partnership between government and industry designed to give businesses clarity about where the government will be concentrating its efforts.

Speaking at Imperial College London, Cable said: ’Government needs to be more like business, by making strategic plans and sticking to them.

‘Our first part of that plan is lifting the barrier that poor access to finance puts on growth. By helping firms to invest capital, businesses expand and create jobs.

‘But I am also setting out a clear and ambitious vision, a commitment far beyond the usual political timescale that will continue to bear fruit decades later. It will give our businesses certainty, allow them to make their own plans, and know that the full weight of government is behind them. We will work in a strategic partnership with industry, focusing our support on specific sectors. This is our commitment to growth in action.’

The speech also outlined the development of a series of collaborative sector strategies in advanced manufacturing, knowledge-intensive traded industries, and the enabling industries. According to a statement, this will include building strategic partnerships with industries and targeting support for them to help realise their growth prospects.

Cable added that the first round of the Employer Ownership pilot scheme — designed to offer employers direct access to funding for the delivery of their own training — had received 34 successful bids, securing £67m of public funding and generating £98m in private investment.

Included within the round one projects are proposals from Siemens, Arla Foods UK and BAE Systems to train their employees and others within respective supply chains.

Today’s proposals have received a cautious welcome from industry figures, who have backed the strategy and plans for improved access to finance.

In a statement, Stephen Cooper, UK head of manufacturing at KPMG, said: ‘If this announcement turns rhetoric into actual action for Britain’s struggling businesses we could see our economy take a very important step forward.

‘A new government-backed “business bank” dispensing loans to small and medium-sized enterprises is an important development because new regulations aimed at making big banks safer have been restricting their ability to lend to smaller businesses.’

Colin Brown, director of engineering at IMechE, said today’s announcement was welcome and overdue.

‘If this industrial strategy is to work, it is vital that it has cross-party support and that its outlook spans further than a five-year government term,’ he said. ‘In order to enable companies to make long-term investments, the government’s vision must also be long term. Industries need to have confidence that these incentives won’t be removed with a change of government.’

Other actions from Cable’s speech include:

  • Accelerating the journey from pure academic research to a commercial product being brought to market to help boost ground-breaking technologies of the future. The government has already made £180m available to support the commercialisation of innovations in the life sciences sector and building on this new approach, there will now be a new Innovation and Knowledge centre in synthetic biology to explore the opportunities this sector presents.
  • Recognising government’s role as a customer and developing a more intelligent partnership with its own supply chain by reforming procurement to make sure that businesses have confidence to take long-term investment decisions.

Source: The Department for Business, Innovations and Skills