Michael Gove’s levelling up blueprint draws on inspiration from Renaissance Italy to the modern industrial economies of South Korea and Israel as it seeks to make the UK a more prosperous and more beautiful country.
The White Paper includes plans to develop a series of UK Silicon Valleys, with £100 billion invested in three new “innovation accelerators” centred on Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and the Glasgow City Region.
The aim is to replicate the success of Stanford in California and of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in developing “clusters” of research excellence with its direct adoption by locally based allied industries.
“These new clusters will be our Fourth Industrial Revolution Foundries, leveraging our global lead in scientific research,” the document states.
“We must support high-growth businesses and reverse the historic decline in manufacturing in the UK with more of the sort of innovation which characterises economies such as South Korea and Israel.”
At the same time, the paper looks to an earlier historical era for a model as to how it is possible to achieve “transformative, city-centric growth” based on the success of 15th century Florence.
“The Renaissance flourished in Italian city states that combined innovation in finance with technological breakthroughs, the cultivation of learning, ground-breaking artistic endeavour, a beautiful built environment and strong civic leadership,” it says.
It promises a “devolution revolution” in England, introducing a new local government template for counties to take greater control with mayors or “governors”.
Ministers are to begin negotiations with the existing combined mayoral authorities in the West Midlands and Greater Manchester on new “trailblazer” devolution deals deepening the powers they already enjoy.
At the same time, the paper also promises to regenerate 20 towns and cities by “assembling and remediating brownfield land” to create “transformational developments combining housing, retail and business in sustainable, walkable, beautiful new neighbourhoods”.
The developments will be supported by a new “Office for Place” which will “pioneer design and beauty, promoting better architectural aesthetics to ensure they enhance existing settlements, gladden the eye and lift the heart”.
Cultural spending will be significantly increased on institutions outside London with support for theatre, museums and galleries, libraries and dance in towns which have been starved of investment in the past.
The White Paper also seeks to address educational inequalities with 55 new Education Investment Areas in those places where attainment is currently weakest, as ministers seek to eliminate illiteracy and innumeracy among primary school leavers.
A new UK National Academy will provide free, online support to pupils across the country to help them succeed “at the very highest levels”.
The paper promises to continue the relocation of more senior Civil Service roles outside the capital, with jobs moving to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast, Manchester, Newcastle, Birmingham, Bristol and Leeds.
The President of the Royal Society Sir Adrian Smith broadly welcomed the focus on skills and innovation but said it needed to be matched with new investment.
“Investment in research and innovation is key to long-term economic growth and the UK has outstanding universities, research institutes and innovative businesses all over the country,” he said.
“As regional anchors, they have a clear role to play in driving productivity and skills and improving people’s lives and opportunities. But the investment needs to be new and not just a repackaging of old money.”