ISCF Foundation Industries - baseline insights

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: Warwick Business School

Abstract

Foundation industries (pulp and paper, bulk chemicals, glass, ceramics, cement and metals) are seen as underpinning vital supply chains across UK industry. Interest in ensuring that the UK has sufficient domestic capacity in these sectors has increased due to the potential for disruption to global value chains and the consequences for production across other production sectors. The foundation industries have, however, been faced with a range of challenges related to policy decisions which have impacted on the UK cost base, movements in international commodity prices and firm-level decisions on investment priorities.

Recent efforts to agree sector deals across a number of foundation industry sectors confirms the appetite and requirement to boost the productivity and competitiveness of companies in these industries. It is thought that this will strengthen domestic supply chains and contribute to raising aggregate productivity levels across wider UK industry.

This research will provide a comprehensive understanding of the innovation readiness of the six foundation industries and their evolution over the past decade. This will include a comparative analysis with appropriate competitors in the OECD to determine how the UK sector compares in terms of size, economic contribution, ownership, investment and innovation performance and recent productivity levels and performance. It will assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of UK-based companies in this sector.

A review of academic and grey literature will explore developments in new product, process and service innovations across foundation industries globally and the extent to which these are being developed and, for international innovation, whether these are being adopted by UK firms.

Additionally, engagement directly with businesses - both SMEs and large companies - , their representative organisations (if appropriate) and research institutions will build greater insights into firm-level drivers of and barriers to innovation and technology investment, the challenges facing businesses in implementing them or bringing them to market and establish which hurdles and barriers present the greatest challenges to business success.

This research is primarily intended to inform future decisions on the deployment of the next waves of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. Policy makers have identified a number of grand challenges facing the UK economy and our research will help inform the extent to which UK-based foundation industries are equipped to contribute to help address the challenges and the innovation and investment priorities which will support greater dynamism and productivity in the sector as a whole. Project outcomes will provide the evidence base in support of these future decisions on public spending.

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