President Joe Biden’s fiscal fervour, displayed in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and Chips and Science Act, is catching Britain on the back foot.
Not only is the business lobby outfit the CBI disintegrating, but Rishi Sunak and his Tory predecessors have also been clueless on industrial policy.
Productivity is stalled.Industrialists and chip makers are anguished. John Neill, creator of motor components champion Unipart from the ashes of British Leyland, is cautioning that his company’s next investment might go to the US.
The Americans are spending billions to develop electric cars, green energy and semi-conductors through loans and tax breaks.
Cambridge-based British chip maker Pragmatic is warning that it may shift overseas if the Government fails to come up with a micro-processor strategy.
Floundering: Rishi Sunak and his Tory predecessors have been clueless on industrial policy
The start-up, which makes flexible circuit boards that can be embedded in anything from clothing to packaging, is the kind of advanced tech enterprise which the UK should be striving to encourage.
It is especially critical given the way Britain’s command and control over its high-tech future is being denuded by the decision of Arm Holdings to relist in New York and the buyout of Cambridge industrial software firm Aveva by France’s Schneider.
Unipart’s Neill says he is awaiting the Brussels response to the IRA before acting.Good luck with that, given the sclerotic and divided nature of EU decision-making. With the right political impetus, the UK ought to be capable of powering ahead on its own.
Speeding up the pooling of local authority pension funds, as proposed under the Edinburgh Reforms, would provide up to £340billion, some of which could support an industrial/tech strategy.
The Government’s ability to use leverage and loan guarantees through the British Business Bank, the UK Infrastructure Bank and the Export Credit Agency (unleashed to assist Rolls-Royce in Covid-19) could also play a role.
Activision Blizzard launched a torrent of abuse at Competition & Markets Authority after it blocked a £60billion takeover by Microsoft.
The Call of Duty creator said it showed the ‘UK is clearly closed for business’.
It was Britain’s effort to demonstrate it was open to commerce which resulted in the loss of Arm in the first instance.Activision is correct in identifying the directionless approach to industry and tech.
Investment is an agenda which Rishi Sunak, with his Stanford University background, ought to understand.
But he and Whitehall seem incapable of taking on the American challenge.
As a stand-alone pharma and vaccines group, GlaxoSmithKline is starting to show its value to Britain and the world.
Strip out the distortions of the pandemic, and first-quarter sales are up in almost every category by 10 per cent.
The worry is that the biggest money spinners, for shingles and some HIV treatments, are running out of patent space.
In the past, GSK (with its asthma devices) demonstrated it could be creative in stretching the lifespans of its discoveries.
There is new stuff on its way.Injectable HIV treatment, respiratory RSV vaccines and meningitis vaccines have potential – but whether there is a blockbuster among them is yet to be seen.
GSK boss Emma Walmsley has been on the acquisition trail, and recently acquiring Bellus Health for £1.6billion. She also has proven an effective voice on the shame of the CBI and racism at Credit Suisse.
Among pitfalls ahead are jury trials in California over alleged, but unproven, links between a stomach treatment and cancer
What GSK and UK life sciences need is fast-track approval by the medicines regulator the MHRA for new compounds and vaccines seen in the pandemic.
The death of Anglo-German financier Win Bischoff, 82, marks the passing of a great City grandee.I came to know him well in his role at merchant bankers Schroders.
He was enormously helpful when I assisted the late World Bank president Jim Wolfensohn, also at Schroders, in writing his biography.
Bischoff helped to guide Lloyds Bank out of Government ownership after the financial crisis, temporarily chaired Citigroup and chungminhtaichinh was travelling the world on behalf of JP Morgan.
His departure is a reminder of the values of loyalty and trust, once the hallmark of the Square Mile.