Dear Members and Friends,

We have had an exceptionally busy and stimulating week in Strategy International with some outstanding high quality speakers. As a backdrop Brexit rolls on but I do detect an urgency that has not always been apparent.

Monday 4 February – The Honourable Jake Berry MP, Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The Minister took us back in History prior to the First World War when the Northern Powerhouse was the economic Centre of Gravity of the Empire. Two World Wars had seen more and more centralisation of power in Westminster and this was now being unwound. Four years ago George Osbourne reinvented the term ‘the Northern Powerhouse’, and over that period we have seen the introduction of Metro Mayors and devolution across the North. Manchester is now one of the fastest growing cities in Europe and there has been a 200% increase in exports between Manchester and Beijing over the last couple of years. In the last year alone the D Group has held lunches in Newcastle, Sheffield and Liverpool and there are great business opportunities across many Sectors. The Government has also realised the education attainment disparity between the North and the South and an extra £70 million is being invested in Northern Schools.

Tuesday 5 February – HM Trade Commissioner for China, Richard Burn.

Richard Burn has lived and worked in China for many years both in the private and public sector. He has now been the Trade Commissioner for a year and has a Team of 200 staff, spread across five Consulates, who are there to get market access across all Sectors for British Companies. 2017 saw a 28% growth in British Business with China but this has not been sustained in 2018. Percentages have held up but in the first 9 months of 2018 there was only 1% growth. The UK/China Golden Era that was started by David Cameron and President Xi is now firmly in its second stage but talks that were meant to have taken place last November have been delayed due to a couple of high level issues that are being worked through.

Tuesday 5th February – Meet the Ambassador: HE Mr Robin Ord-Smith MVO, HMA Kyrgyzstan

On Tuesday afternoon, BEI’s Central Asia and Transcaucasus Business Information Group (CATBIG) hosted an event with the British Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, HE Mr Robin Ord-Smith MVO, ahead of the cross-sector trade mission we are running there in March. Kyrgyzstan offers many business and investment opportunities for UK plc – especially in extractives, education, agribusiness and tourism. While there has been some political uncertainty there in recent years, the British Embassy remains poised to support UK companies in their business development efforts and is often instrumental in ensuring success. The Ambassador highlighted the importance of strong stakeholder networks and personal connections when doing work in the region. To find out more about the upcoming mission, please click here or get in touch with Alexandra.

Thursday 7th February – Richard Harrington MP, Permanent Under Secretary for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Unlike many MPs, the Permanent Under Secretary has worked in Business for over 24 years and this experience shone through in his talk. He explained the role of his Department and how disruptive technology such as Artificial Intelligence was transforming UK business. There was also agreement from all those present that Brexit is currently overshadowing every part of business and what was needed was as frictionless a transition as possible. Looking beyond the current intense political activity a key theme was the need for the UK to up its game converting many more of it’s outstanding younger, high-growth companies, including the many coming out of the UK’s leading University research base, into successful commercial enterprise. The Minister agreed to see several of our Members, which is a great example of what Strategy International aims to achieve in furthering dialogue between the public and the private sector.

Have a great weekend and we look forward to seeing many of you next week.

With best wishes Seumas.


Seumas Kerr CBE - Managing Director, The D Group

Event highlights:

Tuesday 12th February – D Group Lunch
Electric Vehicles – Current developments and future initiatives
Andrew Burgess, Deputy Director, Energy System Transition, Ofgem

Wednesday 13th February – BEI Meeting
UK's approach to funding the UN humanitarian system
Dr Tamsyn Barton, ICAI Chief Commissioner

Wednesday 13th February – D Group Dinner
How UK business can encourage innovation
Dr Ian W Campbell, Executive Chair, Innovate UK

Wednesday 17th April 2019 – BEI Awards
British Expertise International Awards 2019