The small business minister, Margot James, will this week be handed the task of helping thousands of start-ups transform into substantial companies as part of Theresa May’s attempt to fashion a modern industrial strategy.
Sky News has learnt that a green paper to be published on Monday will include an announcement that Ms James will be appointed as the Government’s ‘Scale-up Champion’, working more closely with high-growth businesses across the country.
The appointment is a recognition that while the UK ranks third by the number of companies launched each year, it comes just 13th in international league tables for successful ‘scale-up’ companies.
The Government’s green paper will acknowledge that significant obstacles exist for British companies seeking to expand rapidly, such as difficulties in accessing finance, according to industry sources briefed on its contents.
A report by Deloitte in 2014 estimated that a ‘scale-up’ programme could generate between £70bn and £225bn for the UK economy between 2015 and 2034 – consistent with up to 150,000 more jobs by the latter date.
However, some business figures this weekend questioned whether Ms James’ appointment would have much impact without significantly more funding directed at high-growth companies.
The Government’s efforts to define a new industrial strategy follow a number of previous attempts, which have largely been deemed to have evaporated with little success.
Those hoping for next week’s green paper to include details of a new policy to govern foreign takeovers of British companies will be disappointed.
Mrs May’s aides said when ARM Holdings, the chip designer, was acquired by Softbank of Japan last summer that she would want closer scrutiny of such overseas deals, without defining which UK-based companies or sectors might be affected.
Industry sources said that Mrs May and Downing Street officials had decided to largely omit the issue from Monday’s document, and will instead publish a separate paper on foreign takeovers of the UK’s critical national infrastructure in the next few months.
The Financial Times quoted the Prime Minister on Saturday saying that her industrial strategy would focus on building clusters of specialist industries in different areas of the UK.
The newspaper added that a new research institute for battery technology would be created as part of the new strategy.
A survey of Institute of Directors members found that most wanted a Government industrial strategy to prioritise improving infrastructure and skills, rather than propping up struggling industries such as steel.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy failed to respond to calls seeking comment on Saturday.