Dear Members & Friends,
The week has been overshadowed by the news on Monday of the untimely death of Strategy’s Advisory board member Richard Paniguian. Sir Richard was a great supporter of ours and of so many members. For the team here and those that knew him it’s a huge loss. Alongside a formidable intellect and astute business skills he was a great listener, bringing a rare degree of warmth and empathy to whatever challenge he was presented with. After a distinguished career at BP, he became HMG’s Head of Defence Export Services in 2008 and served in that role with universally acknowledged distinction ‘til 2015, his service being quite rightly recognised with his knighthood. We have lost an exceptional mentor and the country an outstanding businessman who, amongst his multiple talents, had the ability to ensure business and the civil service worked really effectively together. Our condolences and thoughts go out to his family.
Richard was a great enthusiast for youth, enterprise and technology, the theme running through this week’s newsletter. So he would have been as impressed and energised as I with the Cardiff University Impact and Innovation Awards. This link will take you to videos of each winner. Cardiff’s VC, Colin Riordan and Hywel Thomas, the Head of Research and Innovation are, with a hugely talented team, driving a real innovation success story. Strategy International is fortunate to have a number of Universities in membership, with a few more in the pipeline. It’s quite clear that the sheer scale of innovation and its potential for the UK economy and for the regions that comes out of our universities is still not registering in Westminster as much as it should. Particularly as we look beyond Brexit and a changing landscape for research funding, the sector needs all the help it can find, particularly from business, to ensure that an otherwise heavily distracted UK political establishment understands and supports the HE sector’s importance in commercialising cutting edge technology and smart solutions as a key component of the UK’s future growth.
It was, therefore, also very timely that we were able to hear on Wednesday from Keith Morgan (bit of a Welsh theme emerging?), CEO of the British Business Bank. Keith helped design this new UK Government initiative to work with various partners, including the major UK banks, to increase the supply of finance to smaller businesses where otherwise markets do not work well. He has since led it with distinction. Whilst not being able to directly address the long-standing inefficiencies in equity funding for earlier stage UK high-growth companies, it is a welcome further addition to the critical supply of earlier-stage debt finance, without which the UK’s world class research and vibrant, young business community will not fulfil their potential.
Continuing with the theme of energising UK enterprise, we were delighted to welcome recently joined member, the City of Liverpool (International Business Festival), start its series of engagements with Strategy to raise major business awareness of the Festival in 2018. This series will escalate in the coming months. With a new design and energy around this major bi-annual festival and a clear mandate to energise international trade’s interest in what the UK has to offer the World, particularly in skills and sector directly relevant to Strategy’s membership, we look forward to doing all we can to make IBF ’18 a major success.
On Tuesday 23 Grafton St saw the launch of the Asian Young Entrepreneurs Club. Held in conjunction with our member Partner Capital, sponsor of this club, it was a vibrant celebration of the sheer scale of young Asian entrepreneurial talent and ambition in our universities and across our membership. The club’s objective is to bring UK-based and UK-focused Asian entrepreneurial talent and funding together with UK earlier stage investment opportunities; to make a material contribution both to bridging cultural differences and stimulate a flow of collaborative success stories. In short, to drive business success. We were delighted to welcome a large, diverse and energised crowd and in particular to welcome Minister Jin, head of all trade and commerce at the Chinese Embassy in London, to articulate just how important the Asia/UK connection is and, within this, the critical need to focus on and support next generation ideas and success.
Meanwhile in Astana……………………..
Our colleague Phil Dowrick visited Kazakhstan to help promote UK expertise in Smart Cities. Expo 2017 in Kazakhstan is focusing the world’s attention on the importance of future energy solutions. Phil Dowrick represented our Smart Cities of the Future working group and delivered a workshop with Kazakh thought leaders on UK National Day alongside British Expertise International’s President, HRH The Duke of Gloucester. Following this a small Kazakh delegation is scheduled to visit us in Grafton Street on 18 July to meet members keen to engage with them.
Next week sees timely talks from Stephen Crabb, previous Welsh Secretary and Secretary of State at DWP, and now an active voice in the recent weeks’ debate about austerity and pay restraint; and also from Nigel Casey, the UK’s High Commissioner to South Africa – another country with more than its fair share of political uncertainties.
With best regards,
Peter O'Kane - Executive Chairman, Strategy International