Dear Members and Friends,
Luckily for our ‘tough mudders’, who last Sunday all completed the course of around 7 miles and 13 obstacles, raised a good sum for charity and came back suitably exhausted most of Strategy's events have been crammed into the last two days.
I’m writing this fresh from a very productive and pretty unusual ‘double-header’ session where we asked the Canadian High Commissioner to the UK and ours to Canada to meet our members. The session with Howard Drake and Janice Charette followed the one members had a few weeks ago with The Hon Bill Morneau, the Finance Minister of Canada, and ranged over a number of topics, notably investment in infrastructure; in both directions across the pond. Clearly some opportunities for UK companies in Canada. It provided an interesting comparison of US/Canada opportunities and processes garnered from Tracey Smith’s visit to DC last week and meeting on behalf of members with US federal and state bodies.
Yesterday was crammed with, first, some 50 attendees to hear four UK Heads of Mission from Mozambique, Namibia, The Seychelles and Zambia talk about their markets. Useful content and a reminder of the high levels of quality and commitment in the FCO. Thanks to our friends at the BCA for working alongside us on this. Great to see some of the annual flow of UK Heads of Mission coming through London, despite purdah. We have a continuing flow through till end July.
Yesterday, we hosted 5 Ambassador’s from the CATBIG region (Central Asia and Transcaucasus). Judith Farnworth (Armenia), Carole Crofts (Azerbaijan), Carolyn Browne (Kazakhstan), Robin Ord-Smith (Kyrgyzstan), Thorda Abbott-Watt (Turkmenistan) each gave an update on the political and economic situation in the territory, focusing on business opportunities for investment and their individual priority sectors. Economic diversification is a major regional theme (although very dependent on gas and oil prices) as are growing anti-corruption initiatives, the rapidly increasing quality of education and ever more democratic governments, creating a positive and hopeful picture for the region as a whole.
‘Smart Cities’ is playing a major part in how the UK government is looking at deploying its funds and help to a wide range of key Trade markets and we are tracking this very closely, with a number of Missions having submitted outline proposals to the Prosperity programme. Our private sector Smart Cities working group comprises a real concentration of the best of UK expertise ranging across relevant transport, energy, health and data inputs that, amongst others, define the specialisation. It met earlier this week to examine how, alongside members’ own direct engagement with Trade markets, it could assist HMG’s desire to develop consortia building.
As a quick aside whilst on ‘Trade’, it’s also worth mentioning the Strategy team’s increasing admiration for the levels of application going on at UK Export Finance. With a number of major UK banks since '08 winding down their exposure to this area it’s critical that the UK can match other nations’ ability to assist their exporters. The signs are good.
Smart Cities provides a natural Segway into the latest talk in D Group’s series covering digitally-driven change and the associated threats and opportunities to members. The digital debate spectrum covers AI, Internet of Things, ‘Digital disruption’. It strikes us that, just like ‘cyber’ a few years ago, these are subjects that many enterprises understand, in essence, but where they are keen to ask the basic questions and to question their own readiness for potentially seismic change. So Microsoft’s Alex Montgomery visiting to deliver how one of the four US giants in the digital space is working with public and private sector was very welcome. It followed hot on the heels of ex-Facebook top exec, Elizabeth Linder, discussing with BFPG supporters from across the UK foreign policy spectrum, how digital is not only disrupting but sometimes setting foreign policy agendas.
Heady stuff leading into the weekend.
Finally, a reminder from us all that the annual PA’s lecture and reception takes place on Friday 16th June, 12:00 -15:00. Please release your PA/EA to attend. Those that attend find it very useful, and those that don’t and hear how good it is can get pretty annoyed with the boss! There’s two simple reasons why we are so keen that members engage their PAs in this session. They will meet and network with PAs and EAs from companies relevant to your business, thereby enhancing your connectivity, plus they get a full update on what is happening here and how you can get the most out of it. As 90% of relevant information about our events and some forthcoming new initiatives passes through their hands, ‘you know it makes sense’!
Peter O'Kane - Executive Chairman, Strategy International