Business First May-June 2017 Business First May 2017 - Page 16

THOUGHT LEADERSHIP Creating an Industrial Strategy for Northern Ireland by Iain Hoy, Senior Policy Adviser, CBI Northern Ireland ne of the last acts of the Minister for the Economy prior to the March election was the publication of Economy 2030: A draft industrial strategy for Northern Ireland. If adopted, this document will be the foundation stone of Executive economic policy over the coming decade. At its heart, the strategy incorporates a vision of a globally competitive economy that works for everyone. In a welcome step forward, this ambitious vision is underpinned by equally ambitious targets. By 2021 the Executive aims to have created 50,000 new jobs and made Northern Ireland the No.1 FDI destination outside London. By 2030, the Executive wants Northern Ireland to be in the Top 3 most competitive small advanced economies and increased the annual spend on R&D to Β£1.5 billion. Achieving these goals in the timeframe set out in the strategy will be challenging. However, success will lead to a genuine transformation of our economy resulting in greater prosperity and employment for our citizens. This remains the most effective way to lift people out of poverty and reduce health inequalities. However, while the Executive is right to be ambitious, turning Northern Ireland into a leading, internationally competitive economy will be no easy task and requires laser like focus on the key policy actions that will deliver the greatest economic return. It is in this area that the strategy demonstrates a number of weaknesses, as despite the ambitious headline vision, the strategy fails to back it up with equally ambitious policy commitments or by conveying any real sense of urgency. The strategy contains 53 policy commitments. While all are worthwhile, there is an overreliance on vague sweeping policy commitments such as β€œIncrease efforts in supporting nonΒ­innovative companies to engage in innovation” without any real focus on delivery. If the Executive is serious about reaching those targets, then the strategy must be amended to include clear projected timelines for the delivery of each policy commitment. There also is little sense of priority within the document. This raises the question as to whether the truly vital policy commitments will be given the priority attention they deserve. Success requires focus and so the Executive should pick six key flagship policy commitments that will deliver the greatest economic impact and then ensure, above all else, that they are achieved. 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