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How ‘place’ interacts with the other Industrial Strategy pillars

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Writing an effective Local Industrial Strategy (LIS) is currently a prime focus for Combined Authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) up and down the country. Strategies have been published for a few areas now but there are still plenty more to go before everywhere has one.

Our LIS principles were developed to help places think about key issues that their strategies may need to address. We have now followed those up with a set of pieces that talk about how place interacts with the other four pillars: ‘People’, ‘Ideas’, ‘Business Environment’ and ‘Infrastructure’.

We hope that these pieces are helpful. They certainly highlight some of the challenges of developing an evidence-based LIS. Each piece starts with some discussion of why the pillar is important for productivity and the way in which this plays out in local economies. At some level, this may seem obvious. For example, we know that infrastructure is an important factor in determining private sector productivity and growth. However, the crucial arguments around infrastructure are not whether the government should get involved but, instead, revolve around what investments to support directly as well as how to structure the rules and regulations that affect private sector investments. These key productivity questions are far trickier to answer.

One way to help answer these questions is by building on the existing evidence base. Each of the pieces provides a discussion and links to our Evidence Reviews and Toolkits that are relevant to each pillar. Across the four pillars, there is too much detail to summarise here. Looking across the pieces, it is clear that the evidence base is of differing strengths for different pillars. For example, while we know a fair amount about what works when improving people’s skills, we know less about which kinds of infrastructure projects will have the biggest impact on productivity of the local economy.

As you would expect, we also think that there is a lot still to learn and the pieces make the case that robust trialling and testing of interventions need to become commonplace for us to be able to make strong conclusions and avoid the mistakes of the past. With their focus on experimentation, LIS are a good vehicle through which to do this. Experience suggests that it is important to think about evaluation early but that other pressures often mean that this does not happen. We are planning to invest even more time and resources to help places make sure it does.

Moving beyond evidence and evaluation, there are plenty of other things to bear in mind when thinking about the different pillars. The pieces spell out some of the issues for each. They also offer thoughts on implementation, building on insights from local areas experience in developing their LIS and from the relevant central government departments.

We used a series of workshops with local and central government officials to help develop our thinking on each of the principles and how they interact with place. Thanks to everyone who participated in planning those and attended on the days. For those of you who were not able to make it, the write-ups give you a feeling for what you missed.