Book trade could be boosted by May's new industrial strategy

Book trade could be boosted by May's new industrial strategy

The publishing sector could receive a boost as part of prime minister Theresa May’s new industrial strategy, the Publishers Association has said.

May pledged to help creative industries as one of five sectors which could receive special government support while launching her industrial strategy in The Wirral today (23rd January). She also announced that former Arts Council England chair Sir Peter Bazalgette will carry out an independent review into the UK’s creative industries.

The creative industries will benefit along with life sciences, low-carbon-emission vehicles, industrial digitalisation and the nuclear industry. The sectors could receive a boost to skills or research, help with trade deals and deregulation if it could be proven this would help with industry-specific problems as the UK hurtles towards a post-Brexit world.

However, the deals will only be available to sectors that made the case for government action, May said.

The prime minister also announced an “industrial strategy challenge fund” which will provide millions of pounds for research and development in areas such as smart energy, robotics and artificial intelligence, and 5G mobile network technology.

PA chief executive Stephen Lotinga said May’s pledge to raise skills and research could give the publishing industry a boost, particularly the academic sector.

“We are delighted to see this strategy finally recognising the economic potential of the UK’s creative industries which have for too long been seen as a ‘nice to have’ rather than as core to our country’s growth and economic prosperity,” Lotinga told The Bookseller. “The focus on research is also welcome.  The UK is home to a number of the world’s leading academic publishers and therefore we are ideally placed to be a beacon for international research and innovation.”

He added that the PA would be working with the government to help to ensure the publishing sector has a strong IP (intellectual property) framework, a skilled workforce and a healthy competitive market going forward.

The Creative Industries Federation has also welcomed May’s announcement, calling it a "radical departure" from previous policies.  “We warmly welcome the inclusion of the creative industries as one of the five key sectors recognised in the government’s industrial strategy consultation announced today,” the organisation said. “This is a radical departure, secured only in the last few months, and is potentially the sign of a new, bold and imaginative understanding of business in the 21st century.”

However, Tim Godfray, c.e.o of The Booksellers Association, said that the industrial strategy should go further to support retail.

"“The Booksellers Association is pleased that in the Green Paper published this week on future industrial strategy the government has recognised the importance of the creative industries to the UK’s economy, and we are delighted to learn that Sir Peter Bazalgette is going to carry out an independent review into the UK’s creative industries .This is a welcome development," he said. "However, at the same time, the government also needs to recognise the importance of the wider retail sector represented by UK-based businesses which help to underpin the creative industries, and to ensure their needs and priorities are met."

Last Thursday (19th January), Baroness Gail Rebuck called for the needs of the creative industries to be "truly recognised” by government following May's speech earlier in the week confirming the UK would be leaving the single market.
While May's speech was cautiously welcomed by other publishing trade bodies for the "clarity" it offered, Baroness Rebuck noted it contained "nothing about the creative industries".

“…We need to remember that the creative industries are our calling card to the world, vital to our future growth and competitiveness, alongside their role in social inclusion and connecting communities and bringing people from all walks of life together in creative empathy, engagement and experiences,” she said at the time.