Oct 4th, 2021

UK’s Industrial Policy: Learning from the past?

The UK’s industrial policy since the 1970s has been characterised by frequent policy reversals and announcements, driven by political cycles, while multiple uncoordinated public bodies, departments and levels of government are responsible for delivery. This paper explores the impacts of these deficiencies of the industrial policymaking landscape in the UK and contrasts them with the experiences of other advanced economies.

A consequence of the policy inconsistency and poor coordination identified here is that UK industrial policy lacks adequate information feedback channels from outcomes to the policy process; there is a failure to learn or to build on successes.
Some potential options for reform, embedding a more systematic mechanism of policy updating, are also explored, considering lessons from other countries that could be feasibly implemented in the UK.

This insight paper was written by Diane Coyle, theme lead for our Knowledge Capital theme and  Adam Muhtar, research assistant, both from the Bennett Institute for Public Policy, University of Cambridge. 


  • Knowledge Capital




D. Coyle, A. Muhtar (2021) UK’s Industrial Policy: Learning from the Past? Productivity Insights Paper No. 002, The Productivity Institute.