Industrial Policy in Northern Ireland: A Regional Approach
Paul Mac Flynn
In early 2017, the Northern Ireland Executive produced Economy 2030 an industrial strategy for Northern Ireland which seeks to focus government resources on boosting specific sectors of the economy. Whilst a sectoral focus is a welcome innovation in policy terms, the nature of the envisaged financial support to industry remains largely unchanged. Support is still too focused on supply side measures and attracting foreign direct investment. In order for specific sectors in Northern Ireland to gain the critical mass needed to compete globally and reach elevated levels of productivity at home, government resources need to be more collaborative and commercially focused. Internationally, there are contemporary examples of more interventionist industrial strategies at national level, but the role of regional governments in providing such support has been significant. Taking these issues together, the outline of an alternative industrial policy for Northern Ireland is presented. This outline involves Northern Ireland moving from a policy of Regional Innovations Systems toward a sectorally selective, innovation partnership approach. Enterprise policies are best implemented at national level allowing the NI Executive to concentrate on building capacity in Northern Ireland firms directly. This approach would, it is hoped, lead to a significant reversal in the negative trend in productivity and living standards.