"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change, that lives within the means available and works co-operatively against common threats".
Darwin's quote reflects the importance of adaptability in light of external changes and the importance of collaboration - entirely relevant considerations in reviewing the current and future positioning and remit of Industry Leadership Groups (ILGs).
ILGs are a long-established route to engaging industry sectors in Scotland in constructive dialogue with the Scottish Government about shared actions to boost sectoral growth and the economy as a whole, aligned with Scotland's Economic Strategy. ILGs are well positioned to reach businesses not touched by the usual agency or Government channels.
Sectoral opportunities and challenges evolve and change over time as external factors impact on different industries. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, in recent years we were increasingly aware of the pace of change impacting all businesses and the cross-cutting challenges and opportunities emerging which were truly sector agnostic.
In contrast ILGs have, generally, not changed, and their impact appears variable. No real guidance has been delivered in recent years on the role of an ILG and leaderships have changed in most cases. At the same time, the activities of the strongest ILGs have gone beyond their original remit and that has never been reflected back.
With the unprecedented economic challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and the opportunities around the move to net zero and climate change, the time is right to review ILGs and look ahead to the future, recognising the opportunity to help their sectors more effectively through enhanced access to partnerships and policy and achieved by a revamped system of engagement. The recent report of the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery also commended improved and action-oriented partnership between business and government.
Engagement should be purposeful, ensuring that businesses have a route to growth opportunities and sector-wide, sector-led training and business initiatives which ILGs lead, facilitate or support, and which complement the support offered by Business Gateway and the enterprise agencies.
As Chair of the Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board, my aim is to drive inclusive economic growth by maximising the benefits of the collective investment that Scotland makes in enterprise and skills development. Of course, delivering inclusive economic growth depends crucially on the activity of businesses, supported by Government and the agencies. Fundamentally I want ILGs to evolve so that their businesses engage better with the system to help them grow. Industry as leaders; agencies as enablers.
I recognise that the ILGs provide a forum for action independent of government, and can articulate sectoral asks and offers where government input adds value. ILGs can play a massive role in aligning industry and government strategies to make them more effective, particularly as we move to economic recovery.
Following an initial phase of discussion with ILG members about their asks and expectations, and about how we move to optimise the general capacity of ILGs to address future challenges, this report aims to reinvigorate sectoral engagement by recalibrating and stimulating leadership and action from industry and the agencies. It makes recommendations about the look and feel of ILGs of the future, recognising and valuing diversity, and inviting industry sectors to take the next steps in an evolving partnership to support more rapid and focussed business growth.
Nora Senior, Chair Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board