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Charles Levy
Senior Economist
Charles  Levy

Pleasing words or the start of a comprehensive growth plan?

Authors: Charles Levy Charles Levy

25 October 2010

The coalition’s new focus on growth is certainly welcome. Cameron’s speech today asked an important question. One that we think is just as important as how fast and how deep to cut public spending: 'Where is the growth going to come from – where are the jobs going to come from?'

This question is something we have been focusing on in our Knowledge Economy research programme and was at the heart of our submission to the Spending Review. We think it is excellent news that these questions are now so prominent. But so far we have only seen a few headlines, and these already throw up some major challenges for the government. For example:

  • A £200bn national infrastructure plan is certainly positive, but how does it sit with the commitment to localism? Planning can’t be both national and local
  • Cameron’s assertion that the public sector should spend more with small business to help them grow is at direct odds with Philip Green’s advice that the government should pool its purchasing power – small firms can’t win big contracts

Perhaps more than a little worryingly, the Financial Times reported today that the Growth White Paper, promised in the next few weeks, may now not be ready until the new year – we urgently need the government to flesh out their plans.

We can however take some further confidence from Cameron’s speech. Not only is he now asking the right questions, but it seems he is trying to answer them in a very sensible way. He described successful, high-growth economies as an ‘ecosystem’ driven by billions, of individual preferences, choices and relationships.

We couldn’t agree more. Understanding how this innovation ecosystem operates will be key to our future prosperity. Fully appreciating the role of public and private institutions will be vital. At The Work Foundation we’re currently setting up a major research programme to study the current system and help develop an innovation ecosystem fit for the twenty first century.

It sounds like the government is already listening.




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