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The new era of industrial strategies: tackling grand challenges through public-private collaboration

Published on January 15th 2024

A paper released by the World Economic Forum (WEF), in collaboration with Cambridge Industrial Innovation Policy (CIIP) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), aims to understand modern industrial strategy trends and shed light on the opportunities for governments, the private sector, research organisations and civil society to co-create the next generation of industrial strategies.

With a leading contribution by Cambridge Industrial Innovation Policy’s Mateus Labrunie and Alexis Harmon, the paper: The New Era of Industrial Strategies: Tackling Grand Challenges Through Public-Private Collaboration discusses priorities and a variety of approaches to ensure that industrial strategies continue to drive inclusive and sustainable growth amid evolving global dynamics.

A new era of industrial strategy

The world is undergoing significant changes due to new technological innovations, geopolitical shifts, and environmental crises. Industrial strategies are now recognised as multifaceted tools that impact economic, social, and national security dimensions. However, despite diverse approaches across sectors and regions, stakeholders face similar challenges in this new era of industrial strategy.

Last year’s World Economic Forum report on The Future of Industrial Strategies, in collaboration with CIIP and UNIDO, identified five grand challenges that are fundamentally shaping the future of industrial strategies. These are environmental sustainability, supply chain resilience, technology scale-up and adoption, securing future workforce skills, and linking social and business value.

This paper aims to identify priority areas within the challenges and provide examples of collaborative initiatives.

“Based on extensive consultations with stakeholders and experts, this report delves into the key intervention areas where public and private sector leaders could successfully engender new mechanisms for collaboration and coordination,” said lead author Mateus Labrunie, Cambridge Industrial Innovation Policy.

“The report outlines the areas of agreement among experts and stakeholders, as well as the issues that are still being debated. It also includes real-life examples that can inspire governments and businesses, making it a valuable resource in an uncertain world.”

Over 50 stakeholders were engaged in consultations, which included a survey with public and private sector officials from around the world, and Expert Focus Groups with specialists in each challenge area. Experts and industrial strategy practitioners have reached a consensus on some topics while continuing to debate others. The consultations have identified several collaborative initiatives being experimented with around the world to address pressing industrial issues.

Carlos López-Gómez, Head of the Policy Links Unit at Cambridge Industrial Innovation Policy said: “The world has reached a milestone in the historical debate around industrial strategy. The convergence of multiple global challenges, including supply chain shortages and the pressing need for decarbonisation, has led to the formation of a new global consensus.

“This new era of industrial strategies highlights the shared responsibility of both public and private sectors to collaborate on devising solutions based on in-depth sector and technology know-how. This report identifies key action areas and strategic options, serving as a guide for policymakers and industrialists as they develop the next generation of industrial strategies.

About the report

The report aims to shed light on the current approaches to industrial strategy, specifically highlighting areas of high priority and exploring various possible approaches for the public and private sectors. It provides concrete examples as references to simplify the understanding of how global challenges can be tackled in industrial contexts.

Its purpose is to inform the design of next-generation industrial strategies, encouraging dialogue among companies, academia, and governments regarding priorities, collaborative initiatives, and transformative opportunities for change.

Lead authors:

Mateus Labrunie, Cambridge Industrial Innovation Policy, IfM Engage, University of Cambridge

Alexis Harmon, Cambridge Industrial Innovation Policy, IfM Engage, University of Cambridge

Carolina Donelly, United Nations Industrial Development Organization

Kyle Winters, World Economic Forum

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