At first glance the UK Industrial Group’s suggestion that industry should seek National Lottery funds to help rebuild Britain’s manufacturing base seems a bizarre idea. It is also an indictment of the workings of the UK economy that it cannot generate sufficient funds for itself.
But on closer inspection the idea has merit. As the UKIG points out, there is a danger in becoming too dependent on inward investment. And this week the managing director of British Aerospace Airbus called for increased public funding, matched by the private sector, to increase investment in aerospace fivefold. There is little hope of this happening in the current economic climate. But a lottery-supported investment fund would be, according to the principles of the lottery, additional to public funding and could go some way to meeting this call.
Devising a way of distributing the funding would be a headache, given that the UKIG does not want to recreate a 1990s equivalent of the National Economic Development Corporation or the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation. Critics will line up to decry the idea as an example of that anathema, picking winners.
But it is at least arguable that investing in the UK’s manufacturing base would be the most effective possible way to use lottery funds, because it would have potentially the most far-reaching effect on future prosperity.