The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has urged the government to "learn from the Olympics" in trying to create polices that will boost the economy.
General secretary of the TUC Brendan Barber said the success of the British athletes in the Olympics and Paralympics funded by public money show "private isn't always best".
Mr Barber received a standing ovation from delegates in Brighton, where he addressed his final TUC as general secretary before he retires and hands over the reigns to Frances O'Grady – the first woman to fill the role.
In his speech, Mr Barber said it was wrong of the government to suggest it "can't pick winners" in aiding companies.
"Tell that that to Bradley [Wiggins], Jessica [Ennis] or Mo [Farah], all supported by targeted funding," he added.
The rest of the Congress will see debates held over whether to take strike action over freezes to public sector wages, with marches already planned for October in London, Glasgow and Belfast.
Mr Barber criticised the coalition's spending cuts programme, claiming that austerity isn't working.
He claimed that there has been no growth since the government came into power, leaving people struggling with mounting debts.
Ministers, however, insist the deficit must be tackled and that the public purse needs to be restrained in order for this to be enabled.
Mr Barber said the summer weeks during both the Olympics and Paralympics, the country was together as a nation and he believes that garnering the same support in business could help clear debt among ordinary people in the UK.
"We need investment, planning and an Olympic-style national crusade. We won't build up industrial strength unless we work out what we do best as a country, whether it's cars, pharmaceuticals, aerospace, or the creative industries, and help them do even better," he added.
By James Francis