Dear Members and Friends,
A thoroughly thought-provoking week. Jim Saker's session with The D Group on the future of the vitally important UK automotive sector reminded us just how innovative it has been but, now, just how much it requires strategic engagement from government. Whether the UK goes electric or fuel cells (most likely a mix), the required charging or hydrogen networks are immensely expensive and are very unlikely to happen on the scale needed without government support. For the first time in many years, perhaps ever, the industry is no longer in control of its own future.
...... all of which led seamlessly into a same-day discussion with Lord Henley, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, on a national industrial strategy. Oliver Henley has just arrived in BEIS and gave us a powerful sense of the complex challenges faced and how the department is facing up to them. We look forward to welcoming its Permanent Secretary, Alex Chisholm on 28th February 2018.
Thursday's hugely informative D Group talk from H.E. Mr. Joonkook Hwang, the Korean Ambassador to the UK, pulled no punches. HE focused closely on the challenges posed to the South, the region and the World by the regime in the North. He also reminded us of the extensive commercial investments in the UK and the considerable opportunities to both expand these and to develop joint programmes around the World. We look forward to the early 2018 talk by our Advisory Board member, Jane Corbin, who recently reported on the North in her October Panorama piece.
The British Expertise week was no less active. On Monday, our very active Smart Cities Working Group heard from Kari Aina Eik, Secretary General of the Organization for International Economic Relations (OiER), based in Vienna, to talk about the United Smart Cities programme - a global initiative, established by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) in cooperation with the OiER. The main objectives include promoting sustainable development and projects in cities at a global level, and establishing a multi-stakeholder platform and content hub for smart city initiatives. Thursday saw DFID's Head of Profession for Infrastructure, Mark Harvey, for a member discussion of some of the strategic issues in the sector.
Sandwiched between these were some very useful networking sessions. BEI and a number of members from across the Strategy Group attended the Prosperity update event at the FCO. This programme remains of high interest to the overall memberships at Grafton Street, and its final shape and sequence will hopefully emerge soon. The same evening saw Secretary of State, Dr Fox welcome stakeholders in DIT's activities to Lancaster House. BEI CEO Tracey Smith, who also leads, along with various UK Infrastructure sector CEOs, on DIT's joint government / private sector international infrastructure initiative (IE:UK), represented the overall group.
On Thursday evening, Nigel and Alexandra attended a reception at the FCO organised by the British Kazakh Society to mark the 25th Anniversary of UK-Kazakhstan relations, the 15th Anniversary of the British Kazakh Society and to celebrate the Expo Astana 2017. In their opening speeches, Greg Hands MP and HE Erlan Idrissov both made a special mention of BEI’s mini trade mission to Astana last summer, where we supported BEI’s President, HRH The Duke of Gloucester, at the opening of the UK Pavilion at Astana Expo.
HRH The Duke of Gloucester also chairs our British Expertise International Awards judging panel which met last week to review entries for the competition. Our Newsletter next week will include details of all those short listed as well as details on how to attend the big event in April 2018.
As we now cruise into the heart of the Christmas season (and our own annual year-end reception next week), it’s worth alerting you to the programme of events for the first quarter. If you click on this link you will be able to browse January to March. It is going to be a pretty vital time for sentiment in the UK economy and we hope we have managed to arrange an impressive calendar. Most of those listed are D Group events. BEI events tend to be shorter notice and its members will be used to checking its website for updates.
With best regards,
Peter O'Kane - Chairman, Strategy International