Dear Members and Friends,

We exist in parallel universes. One in which we watch, with an increasing sense of detachment, the endless loop of repeated arguments in and between parliament, the government and Brussels. The other, the real world where we are all just trying to get on with things. In the latter we had three stimulating events this week, whilst one of our most important annual events takes place next Wednesday.


First up was Dick Elsy CBE , the CEO of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult. The top line was that UK Manufacturing is in good heart and we are still the tenth largest manufacturing nation in the world and more than capable of remaining so. Jointly funded by government and industry the Catapult runs research centres across the UK across the country helping over 3000 businesses to bring new technology to the market. A key current focus is Digitalisation. Upbeat, positive.


On Thursday D Group member Atos and hosted a session on “The Rise of a Decentralised Energy and Utilities World”. A great panel included Dermot Nolan, Chief Executive of Ofgem, and Anthony Walker, Deputy CEO of techUK. Key takeaways? First, the current energy market change neatly parallels those in telecoms twenty years ago and we should not underestimate the pace and scale of disruption. Scaling up its recent positive decarbonisation progress will need the UK to implement substantial changes to its underlying infrastructure, which will come at a cost. Finally, if we are to create a sustainable energy future it must be one that is inclusive and available to all. Much of it, such as electric vehicles, is currently price prohibitive for the less well-off.


Next was a robust BFPG round table on China/ UK relations. This event was in part prompted by concern from BFPG’s connections across UK regional trade about a more confrontational HMG line; one based on domestic security concerns and increasingly combative noises around the UK’s defence posture in the South China Sea. One key takeaway emerged from a fascinating discussion between UK, Chinese and Asia-Pacific expert commentators, businesspeople and leading UK institutions; the need for a coherent UK policy towards China. One that recognises that firmly defending the national interest and values need not be incompatible at all with positive and consistent trade engagement. We did a D Group podcast with the ex-head of MI6 which touched on this subject. Worth a listen.


Next week is the 10th annual BEI Awards where, with royalty, international diplomats and ministers, we will celebrate exceptional British-based achievement in landmark social and physical infrastructure around the world. If anything is Brexit-unaffected it is the unstinting engagement by our many member consultants in trade and aid around the globe. Neither a major new port in Iraq nor a post-conflict nation needing expert consultants to deploy life-changing DFID programmes are Brexit-constrained. More important, they remind us of the extraordinary impact our members have on life chances and quality of life around the globe.

We look forward to welcoming HRH The Duke of Gloucester, Baroness Fairhead and 200 guests next Wednesday.

Have a good weekend.


Peter O'Kane - Executive Chairman, Strategy International

Event highlights:

Tuesday 23rd April 2019 – BEI 
Simon Penney Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner (HMTC) for the Middle East, Afghanistan & Pakistan

Tuesday 23rd April 2019 – The D Group Dinner
The Future of Transport
Richard Threlfall, Global Head of Infrastructure, KPMG International

Wednesday 24th April 2019 – BEI
Key Themes for 2019: East Africa
Veronica Bolton Smith, Strategy & Development, Invest Africa

Thursday 25th April 2019 – The D Group Breakfast
Good health and what we mean by this
Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive, Public Health England

Thursday 25th April 2019 – BEI 
Myth Busting with DFID for SMEs 
The UK Department for International Development 

Tuesday 30th April 2019 – The D Group Lunch 
Bringing business sense to the NHS
Baroness Dido Harding, Chair, NHS Improvement  

Tuesday 30th April 2019 – BEI 
Key Themes for 2019: West Africa   
Olusegan Okubanjo, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, OBSIDIAN  

British Expertise International Awards:

Wednesday 17th April 2019 – BEI Awards
Last few tables remaining – book here →