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Lessons for industrial policy from development of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine

The success of the UK’s Covid-19 vaccine procurement programme provides lessons for future industrial policy in the UK.

In this paper the Industrial Strategy Council explores how the Government’s mission to secure Covid-19 vaccines at speed played a key role in expediting development of new vaccines in the UK. We also examine the factors already in place prior to the pandemic that were a necessary condition for developing a vaccine quickly.

The paper focuses on the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine as a case study to help surface lessons from the wider procurement programme. Although it was one of many vaccines procured by the Government, development of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine took place mostly in the UK and so provides a window into how the Government influenced each stage of the process.

We find that government played a key role in expediting every stage of the Ox/AZ vaccine development process. Based on our analysis we identify six lessons for future industrial policy:

  1. Choose a small number of clear, measurable missions and make them a priority at the highest levels of government.
  2. Map out an end-to-end path to success. 
  3. Harness the public, private and voluntary sectors in co-creating and co-delivering industrial policy.
  4. Use strategic procurement and financial insurance to drive progress against industrial policy objectives.
  5. Provide long-term investment at scale as part of sector strategies to maximize the UK’s industrial, commercial and technological strengths.
  6. Build resilience as part of industrial policy.


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