CBI Wales urges 'reality' in industry plan

Image caption This Vale of Glamorgan engineering firm is looking more at a grass roots response

An industrial strategy across the UK must be grounded in "reality" and focus more on major infrastructure projects, say Welsh business leaders.

It comes as the UK Business Secretary Greg Clark published his government's industrial strategy white paper.

Artificial intelligence and technology are at the centre of the strategy but CBI Wales said it must be measurable.

The Prime Minister has already promised it would "propel Britain to global leadership" in new industries.

Areas include partnerships between industry and universities in sectors such as life sciences, artificial intelligence and automotive - which Wales will benefit from; also tax credits for research and development.

A green paper had already outlined "10 pillars" including science, affordable energy and research and innovation.

Mike Plaut, chairman of CBI Wales, said: "We want a vision, a plan, to know where we're going, we'd like to ensure it's not politics, to ensure that it's reality.

"It's important post-Brexit we all know where we're heading, what economy we're trying to build, what sort of country we want.

"It's going to be very difficult to generate high paid jobs in a competitive world so we're going to need every factor in our favour."

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Media captionSam Evans, quality director at semi-con firm Newport Wafer Fab, hopes the strategy will help bring in new talent and improve skills

He also said it had to be "measurable, not spin" and include infrastructure, which for Wales would be projects like the new M4 relief road.

"Politicians love robotics, artificial intelligence but to most of us we will adopt that technology as and when we need it," said Mr Plaut.

"What we need is often simple innovation and then infrastructure is also important to us, to get from A to B. We need to get the simple things right, the housekeeping."

Although there was no mention of the Swansea tidal lagoon, the company behind the £1.3m project - still awaiting a UK government decision - said the technology would "fit hand in glove" with the strategy.

Tidal Lagoon Power said it presented "one of the first big tests of government ambition in this area".

Engineering firm Harris Pye UK at Llandow in the Vale Glamorgan has a welding school but could open the facility to other businesses and trainers.

Nigel Hopkins, managing director, said: "There's a lot of talk about infrastructure upgrades and investment strategies but from a grass roots level we'd like to be able to provide our skills and our resources, to accommodate and benefit all."

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Media captionWelsh Secretary Alun Cairns and Airbus UK senior vice president Katherine Bennett give their views

Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns, on a visit to Airbus's cyber security operation in Newport, said it was about identifying long term, key challenges - and infrastructure and skills were part of it.

"Wales is at the heart of this UK plan to ensure growth is more evenly spread," he said.

"I'm determined to bring more growth to Wales but also take this opportunity to develop this cross-border theme.

"We can develop a cluster between Cardiff, Newport and Bristol to ensure we have one of the biggest digital clusters in Europe with Wales at its heart".

Plaid Cymru said the strategy would "bypass Wales' needs" and called for the Welsh Government to publish its own priorities.

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