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Industrial Policies, Strategy, and the UK’s Levelling Up Agenda

Sunley, Peter; Harris, Jack L; Pike, Andy; Harris, Richard; Martin, Ron; Evenhuis, Emil

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Peter Sunley

Andy Pike

Ron Martin

Emil Evenhuis


In the context of the UK economy’s slow and unbalanced growth, this paper discusses the degree to which recent Conservative Governments in the UK have moved towards the adoption of a strategic and coherent set of industrial policies to enhance economic performance across the country. It starts by outlining the priorities and principles of new forms of industrial strategy which emphasises the importance of cross-sectoral goals, intensive dialogue between government and the private sector, co-ordination between different policies and levels of government, directions to address societal and environmental challenges and the role of place-based policy making. The paper discusses the degree to which these principles have shaped, or been largely absent from, recent industrial policy development in the UK and particularly the interface between industrial and regional policies. It discusses the May Government’s move to set up an Industrial Strategy with a place ‘pillar’ and the influence of a mission approach. It then reviews the Johnson’s Government’s ‘Plan for Growth’ industrial policy agenda, focussing on the recent Levelling Up White Paper and examines how far and in what ways it has embedded these reforming principles. It finds that despite reflecting some of these principles in its rhetoric, the current government programme has substituted innovation and infrastructure policies for an actual industrial strategy, and continues to rely mainly on a top-down and technologically driven type of approach. The agenda lacks the capacity to deliver its levelling up goals due to inadequate funding, an incomplete devolution agenda and insufficiently developed place-based capacities and policies. Future development needs to move the principles from rhetoric into industrial policy direction and design, and to remedy the continuing lack of local and regional collaboration and co-ordination.


Sunley, P., Harris, J. L., Pike, A., Harris, R., Martin, R., & Evenhuis, E. (2022). Industrial Policies, Strategy, and the UK’s Levelling Up Agenda. Local Economy, 37(5), 403-418.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 19, 2022
Online Publication Date Dec 26, 2022
Publication Date 2022-08
Deposit Date Jan 5, 2023
Publicly Available Date Jan 5, 2023
Journal Local Economy
Print ISSN 0269-0942
Electronic ISSN 1470-9325
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 37
Issue 5
Pages 403-418
Public URL


Accepted Journal Article (369 Kb)

Copyright Statement
Sunley, P., Harris, J. L., Pike, A., Harris, R., Martin, R., & Evenhuis, E., Industrial policies, strategy and the UK’s Levelling Up agenda, Local Economy, 37 (5), pp. 403-418. Copyright © The Authors, 2022. DOI: 10.1177/02690942221149007

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