The 2015 Future of Growth Summit, held at Bloomberg’s headquarters in London, saw some of the biggest names in entrepreneur, investor and government circles come together.
Talks by everyone from Unruly founder and COO Sarah Wood to the US ambassador provided some great insight into the state of business growth in the UK and beyond.
Growth Business was there to collate all the insight so that, if you weren’t able to make it, you still won’t have to feel like you missed out.
1 US trade relations would be harmed by an EU exit
If the UK were to leave the EU it would have a serious impact on our trading relationship with the US, according to the Rt Hon. Lord Malloch-Brown KCMG, Chairman, SGO.
He has spent much of his career in both the US and Europe and warned about the impact of leaving the EU – even though he is no fan of Brussels.
“Brussels is full of horrible things. But the idea of Europe as a cultural and trading block is – to my mind – one of the most powerful ideas of our times and we sacrifice it at our peril,” he said.
He added that US investors looking to do business in the UK are encouraged because they see it as a gateway to Europe. Losing that advantage may see us “drifting into the mid-Atlantic,” he warned.
2 The tech world and government can work together
There was a fascinating talk by the US ambassador to the UK Matthew Barzun. He talked about the history of UK/US trade and the symbiotic relationship that has been so beneficial to both parties.
From the railways to Wikipedia, he drove home how many pioneering inventions have crossed the Atlantic and been adopted – and in some cased improved – by either nation.
He then turned his attention to the relationship between the tech industry and government. While many see the former as “disruptive” and agile”, others see government as leaden-footed and in some ways a barrier to fast-moving innovation.
But he argued convincingly that the tech industry should not shut out government as an ally and that the two parties can work together – despite their differences.
One example he gave of government helping the tech industry “without being asked’ was in intellectual property (IP) rights.
“We in government around the world are working hard to keep up the high standards (around IP) that let creators create,” he said.
Government getting too close or too distant from tech would be to the detriment of both parties, he argued. And it all seemed to make sense.
3 The future of London tech could be quite boring (but very lucrative)
Dr Mike Lynch OBE FREng FRS, founder of Invoke Capital, said that we are in a “golden age” of UK tech as we start to unlock the latent talent in our entrepreneurially-minded STEM graduates.
So are we likely to see the next Twitter or Apple come from the UK? Well yes and no. While we are going through a period of “incredible growth” that leads to unprecedented opportunities, the first massive breakthrough is not likely to come in such a fashionable area.
“Perhaps the biggest opportunity in London is on something very boring – reg-tech,” he said.
“How do you regulate these complex, unstable multi-feedback systems? That’s all going to require technology. And although it’s boring I think it’s a very lucrative area.”
So look forward to London becoming the Chelsea of the global tech scene. It’s not always pretty but invariably comes out on top. When we win the title nobody will be complaining right?
4 We need new immigrants for economic growth
When a man who was once the chief economist at Goldman Sachs talks on the economy, it’s probably best to listen.
So when Jim O’Neill said that having enough skilled people to work enough hours is one of the two main drivers of business growth, it’s probably true.
O’Neill has warned that anti-immigrant sentiment across Europe could start to damage growth if we’re not very careful.
>Related: Kellner predicts Miliband for PM
“We need skilled immigrants to help the economy grow: not least because there’s strong evidence that they have a major positive impact on productivity,” he said.
“But there’s a sense that in many European countries we don’t like them. There’s something wrong going on in society with that.”
While we would argue here at Growth Business that society should not be moulded to suit the needs of business – on this occasions it seems what is best for both parties seems pretty well-aligned. Well said Jim!
5 Many in business fear political change
In the afternoon session Lord Bilimoria, the man behind Cobra beer, gave an impassioned speech in which he appeared to endorse the current government and warn against any potential Westminster deal involving the SNP.
He said that, even though the SNP had lost the battle for independence in 2014’s referendum, they may be about the win the war by sending a “visible Trojan Horse” to Westminster.
He also questioned why, with the coalition delivering consistent growth in the second half of the parliament, the polls are not more in the Conservatives’ favour.
“It is still possible for the Conservatives to win an outright majority; unlikely though, by all accounts. You’ve got jobs – so what have they done wrong, why aren’t they connecting, why has this campaign been so negative?” he asked.
He is not the only person worried. In a series of straw polls taken during the event the Conservatives were regularly backed against all other parties when it came to business and the economy.
Will the backing of the business community see Cameron to victory? Only time will tell.