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Accelerating Growth & Embracing Opportunity: BCC’s latest Global Britain Report Launch

Members of the Seven Hills team headed out to Heathrow Airport on Wednesday for the take off of a new Global Britain report from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), which aims to boost the proposition for Foreign Direct Investment in the UK.

Seven Hills co-founder and chair Michael Hayman joined BCC Director-General Shevaun Haviland to discuss Britain’s image on the international stage, and opportunities to capitalise on the country’s creativity, institutions, and capacity for innovation.

Guests also heard from Lord Peter Mandelson, who described the report as “incredibly timely”, asserting that UK must seize the moment to “start the next chapter in our national economic story” and let investors know that “Britain is open for business.”

Michael chairs the Global Britain working group for the BCC, and presented the findings of the report to press and industry experts, outlining the plan for UK trade and inward investment going forward, with a recommendation of a new collaborative body – Team UK, at its heart.

Read Michael’s speech from the event in full below:

Good morning, and it is my great pleasure to introduce our new report from the British Chambers of Commerce – Global Britain – Accelerating Growth. It is about how we drive trade and inward investment.

In introducing it to you I would like, as Chair, to extend my great appreciation to the Global Britain working group members for their time and insights, the research team at the Chambers of Commerce, as well as the other Future of the Economy challenge groups led by Baroness Martha Lane-Fox and Shevaun Haviland.

Lord Harrington of Watford captures the spirit of the report itself in his foreword, saying that: “The UK has a tremendous story to tell the world, and how it is told, and by who, matters to the success of our economy.”

On that note, let me turn to Global Britain.

The UK is a great country for business with strong fundamentals, and it does indeed have a tremendous story.

But it’s far from plain sailing. Investors have told us too often that the instability of recent political events have lead us to be seen as unpredictable and uncertain. They want to know where they stand and where things are going.

And we need to listen, because there is a world of choice for business, and the UK is faced with competition from the entrepreneurial zeal of economies globally.

So, let’s be in no doubt the UK’s growth ambitions will require the delivery of answers for those that worry our best days might be behind us, and the drive and energy to deliver a new ambition for exports and inward investment.

We can provide that clarity and certainty with a message to the world that the UK is beyond the Brexit shadow, that it is very much in business and for business. With this, will come confidence about Britain’s place in the world and the world’s place in Britain.

That’s why we need to focus on accelerating our position as a leading nation for foreign direct investment with a new, coordinated focus on presenting the country’s capacity for innovation.

And we have a great head start. The Global Innovation Index ranks the UK 4th out of 132 nations, we are the fifth largest economy in the world, have the third largest stock of inward investment assets, while we rank fifth globally for total value of exports.

The UK has some of the best universities in the world in research, skills development, innovation, and enterprise. It has 18 of the top 100 international universities by research spend and research standing.

But we must not take any of these assets for granted. The UK is the only G7 country that is yet to regain its pre-pandemic level of trade intensity.

So, if there is a message about the assets to which I refer, it is ‘use them or lose them.’

This brings me to one of our central recommendations: Team UK

We have found that there is an urgent need to establish how we present the strengths of our reputational power assets in tandem with forward thinking policies and regulations.

We also found an urgent opportunity to release the talents of business in areas hitherto the preserve of government. It is why our report calls for the creation of ‘Team UK,’ a new business focussed drive to champion and revitalise ‘Brand Britain’ by showcasing to the world the best of what the UK can offer inward investors.

As we say in the report: “FDI decisions rely heavily on education, culture, language, diversity, quality of life, and other less tangible, but no less important, factors. The UK is amazingly strong in all these areas and must do more to pitch them to global business audiences.”

Trade has continued to change and develop, and we are more than capable of changing with it. The gear shift required then is from that of an incumbent, to one of a challenger.

And it matters, because speed matters. The technologist Michael Dell makes the point that today is the slowest day of the rest of your life.

To put it another way, as Julia Hoggett, the CEO of the London Stock Exchange says “We have to be young, scrappy and hungry about how we go about fighting to grow.”

Specifically therefore Team UK would provide business with a front row seat and be hardwired to work with the grain of the great global shifts of international trade.

Because if there is a New Normal it’s change. And if there is a new challenge it’s how do we master that change.

Let me therefore summarise the mission of TeamUK and how it would make a difference:
Promotion and positioning: TeamUK would work with business to refresh the governments ‘Great’ campaign to ensure it puts us at the top of our game.

Collaboration and connections: It would convene an international network of cultural, societal, commercial and business networking bodies into a cohesive team to promote the country’s offer to the world.
Structure and strategy: And it would also be at the heart of new FDI and Export Councils to improve public-private partnership on FDI, recognising the increasing and vital role of the private sector in securing inward investment.

Team UK sits at the heart of a report with 26 key recommendations that examined three key areas of mindset, capital and focus:

Mindset: stepping out of Brexit’s long shadow, so politicians take bold decisions to make it work better and grab the opportunities it offers.

Capital: An injection of more investment into the UK by targeting the big, and growing economies, with the money and understanding to make the most of what we can do.

Focus: A greater emphasis on services exports in the UK’s trade deals, implementing the Harrington Review in full and an acceleration of planning decisions pertaining to FDI projects.

All The World’s Stage, said the poet and playwright William Shakespeare.

Words written 425 years ago feel very relevant today as this report indeed considered how Global Britain presents itself on the international stage.

In addressing this question we heard about a long-term optimism for the UK’s future, juxtaposed with short-term anxieties.

This is a great country. And with it a great belief around the world in our cultural capital, our talent, our institutions and our capacity for innovation.

We spoke with both inward investors and exporters, and they told us that despite the political flux, the demand for the talents of our nation is there.

But our position as a historic inward investment winner only continues if we can be a dynamic investment location of the future.

That needs a beacon to be lit that signals to the worlds best that they can find their place in an open, global, bright, swift and optimistic nation.

So what happens both now and next matters: we need an unparalleled focus on commercial diplomacy, a revitalised message around what it means to be ‘Great’, and a mobilisation of the country’s economy around exports.

With that in mind, we have an opportunity to address key questions about our future: What is our purpose and relevance in a demanding digital age? How we do we keep our seat at the top table when there are many other countries clamouring for a piece of the action?

The answers lie in reforming how we promote the UK, creating investment-ready opportunities and cultivating high-growth countries as partners, while taking politically tough decisions on post-Brexit issues such as regulation.

In turn, we must offer more effective support for our small and growing firms, so that they are empowered to take advantage of the UK’s trade agreements; and we need government to double down on the trade agenda.

This report examines these issues; the UK’s appeal both as a location for inward investment and indeed, what we can offer through our exports.

It is the result of vibrant discussions on the future of the economy with the Global Britain working group, as part of the British Chambers of Commerce National Business Council.

I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to it and commend the work of the Chambers in its ambition to develop business-backed, pro-growth policies that support the UK economy.

Let me conclude. The UK’s is an international standing hard won, but even harder maintained.

But we can do it, and we can do more.

Because this report speaks fundamentally about optimism for the future as we have the ability, talents and relevance to liberate our potential as a nation.

That potential is a pro-business spirit, story and offer. It is alive and well in Global Britain, and Team UK can realise, release and deliver it to the world.

It’s all to play for.

You can also read the full report here

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Chapter 1 outlines the concept of mission and how the breakthrough brands of today have succeeded by building a mission that inspires belief, generates a following and instils a purpose beyond profit.